July 27, 2015 Top Story

Ethical Breaches Result in Firm Disqualification

Law firms' merger causes incurable simultaneous representation of adversaries

Ian S. Clement

After 20,000 billable hours and $12 million in fees, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California disqualified mega-firm Squire Patton Boggs from a multi-million-dollar lawsuit because of conflicts resulting from the merger of Patton Boggs, LLP and Squire Sanders. In Western Sugar Coop. v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., the district court determined that the merger resulted in incurable simultaneous representation of adversaries and breaches of loyalty and confidentiality owed to a former client.

Sugar Wars

In the underlying lawsuit, sugar industry plaintiffs alleged that the corn syrup defendants engaged in false advertising by using the term “corn sugar.” The corn syrup defendants’ counterclaim alleged that the plaintiffs engaged in false advertising by asserting that high fructose corn syrup is unhealthy. The sugar industry was a long-standing client of Squire Sanders. Patton Boggs LLP had for many years represented the corn syrup refining industry, including Tate & Lyle, a company specializing in processing high fructose corn syrup, and Ingredion, which refines corn to produce high fructose corn syrup.

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