A top partner at U.S. law firm Dechert leaked damaging information about a client as part of a scheme to inflate his legal fees and then "lied continuously" about it in court, a British judge ruled on Monday.
In a scathing ruling, a High Court judge said Dechert's head of global white-collar litigation, Neil Gerrard, was a "dishonest witness" and suggested that he was "so obsessed with making money from his work that he lost any real sense of objectivity, proportion or indeed loyalty to his client."
The judgment caps off a 10-year legal battle between Dechert and the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, an African mining company, and could leave the embattled law firm on the hook for tens of millions in court fees and damages.
It is also a significant blow to Dechert's reputation, coming three years after another lawyer at the legal powerhouse, Andrew Levander, threatened to sue the Washington Free Beacon for reporting on a lawsuit that claims Gerrard was involved in an international hack-and-leak operation targeting critics of the Iranian regime.
The mining company retained Gerrard in 2010 to assist with an internal investigation into corruption issues at some of its work sites. The attorney later leaked the company's records to The Times and took other steps to "kick-start" a British government anti-corruption investigation into his own client, according to the court ruling. Gerrard then charged his client millions in legal fees to help it resolve the investigation he surreptitiously initiated, court records claim.
After the U.K. Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into the mining company based on the leaked documents, Gerrard allegedly boasted to associates about shaking down his client for cash.
"I'm in rape mode," he reportedly told two associates during a lunch meeting, adding that he would "screw these fuckers [the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation] for $25 million," according to witnesses.
During cross-examination, Gerrard denied that he made the comments, and also claimed he suffered from memory lapses due to "long COVID" and "global amnesia." But the judge did not buy it.
Dechert, in a statement released after the judgment, admitted that Gerrard's alleged behavior is at odds with the law firm’s ethos and said it is trying to learn lessons from the case.
The judgment is likely to impact other ongoing cases involving Gerrard, including one launched by an Iranian-American businessman who claims the former Dechert lawyer played a role in a hacking scheme that was launched over a business dispute with the Ras al Khaimah, or RAK, a Dechert client and one of the seven monarchical states that make up the United Arab Emirates.
As part of that case, Farhad Azima, an aviation magnate, alleged in court documents that Gerrard threatened he would become "collateral damage" if he didn't broker a financial settlement with one of RAK leader Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi's top business partners. Days after this alleged threat, when the deal wasn't concluded, dozens of sites appeared on the internet housing his hacked data.
Dechert and Gerrard are also being sued by a Jordanian businessman, who claims the lawyer illegally detained and tortured him while working for RAK leader Sheikh Saud.