Squire Sanders suspends vote on merger with Patton Boggs

A vote on the merger between D.C. law firm Squire Sanders and lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs, which had been scheduled to be completed by Friday, has been suspended, a person familiar with the matter confirmed.

Squire Sanders suspended the vote Thursday morning, after a court filing Wednesday night by plaintiffs in the environmental case against Chevron that Patton Boggs had previously been involved in. The filing accuses Patton Boggs — which had previously represented the plaintiffs but ended its involvement in the matter and agreed to pay Chevron a $15 million settlement earlier this month — of engaging in unethical conduct by pulling out of the case. The filing, by the plaintiffs lawyer Steven Donziger in New York federal court, seeks to block the settlement between Patton Boggs and Chevron. The conflict with Chevron was a major hurdle that Patton Boggs had to resolve in order for the merger with Squire Sanders to move forward.

In a response filed in court Thursday, Patton Boggs’ attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, asked the judge to throw out Donziger’s request, saying it is “defective” and “moot.”

“There is no need for the requested intervention because the settlement agreement between Patton Boggs and Chevron already has established procedures to provide the [plaintiffs] the discovery protections that they purport to seek,” Abramowitz wrote. “The request for reconsideration accordingly should be summarily denied.”

The objective of Donziger’s motion “is simply to generate publicity and cast a cloud over Patton Boggs,” Abramowitz wrote.

The intention of the Chevron filing was not to block Patton Boggs’ merger with Squire Sanders, a spokeswoman for Donziger said.

“While we did not take this action to block the merger, our concern is about the plight of the Ecuadorians and their unfair treatment by Chevron in U.S. court, not about the future of two law firms,” Donziger spokeswoman Karen Hinton said.

A Patton Boggs spokeswoman did not immediately return a request seeking comment. A Squire Sanders spokesman declined to comment.

The suspension on the vote was first reported by the American Lawyer.

A merger between the two firms, which many in the legal industry consider critical to Patton Boggs’s survival in light of its recent financial troubles, would be the largest law firm merger so far this year. Patton Boggs has about 330 lawyers and Squire Sanders has about 1,300 attorneys.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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