(Adds response by Patton Boggs; adds American Lawyer first
reported stalled vote)
By Casey Sullivan
May 22 The fate of the proposed merger of law
firms Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders appeared uncertain on
Thursday after Squire Sanders halted voting on approving the
The deal was held up because of concerns over the role of
Patton Boggs in a legal battle between Chevron Corp and
a group of Ecuadorean villagers, a source close to the deal told
On Tuesday, partners from the 300-lawyer Patton Boggs voted
on the proposed merger with the 1,300-lawyer Squire Sanders. The
source said that Patton Boggs partners had voted to approve it.
The executive board of Squire Sanders voted Friday to
approve the merger and that firm's partnership had been expected
to vote on it today, the source said.
But Thursday morning, the source said, Squire Sanders
decided to hold off on the vote. The decision was prompted by a
motion filed by a group of Ecuadorean villagers Wednesday in New
York federal court related to Patton Boggs's prior involvement
in a legal battle between Chevron and the villagers, the source
The motion urged a judge to reconsider his acceptance of a
May 7 settlement resolving claims that Patton Boggs tried to
enforce a fraudulent $18 billion pollution judgment against the
oil giant on behalf of the Ecuadoreans.
Patton Boggs agreed to pay $15 million and cooperate with
Chevron in discovery related to the case, and it expressed
regret for its involvement.
On Wednesday, Steven Donziger, who represents the
Ecuadoreans, asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who
accepted the settlement, to issue an order blocking the deal.
In March, Kaplan ruled that Donziger had used "corrupt
means" to secure the 2011 judgment. Donziger is appealing.
Donziger said in Wednesday's motion that Patton Boggs had
abandoned its clients and violated ethics to facilitate the
On Thursday, Patton Boggs countered that the motion was a
"It seems clear that the objective of the motion is simply
to generate publicity and cast a cloud over Patton Boggs," the
firm wrote in a letter to Kaplan, asking the judge to dismiss
According to the source, the merger between Patton Boggs and
Squire Sanders was conditional on the resolution of the case
between Chevron and Patton Boggs. Squire Sanders felt that the
Donziger filing meant that condition had not been met, the
It was not clear Thursday whether the vote would be resumed
soon or put off indefinitely. Another source close to the matter
said he believed Squire Sanders had decided to resume voting
after concluding the Donziger motion was unlikely to succeed.
Patton Boggs has been in discussions with Squire Sanders
since at least February, after seeing revenue wane and partners
defect in 2013.
Neither Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry, who
would be co-managing partner of the new firm, nor James Maiwurm,
chairman of Squire Sanders, responded to requests for comment.
The American Lawyer first reported the stalled Squire
(Additional Reporting by Nicholas Brown; Editing by Eric
Effron, Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and Eric Walsh)