Conflict? What Conflict?


Julie Kay breaks the story of Akerman representing BP in the Gulf Oil disaster, a huge piece of business worth many millions of dollars.

But there’s a little wrinkle:

State Sens. Alex Villalobos and Dan Gelber are taking the lead in calling for a special legislative session to ban offshore drilling in Florida waters.
shim-6229617Yet the two work for Akerman Senterfitt, the law firm that has been retained to handle BP’s oil spill defense work in Florida.

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Villalobos and Gelber both said they don’t think there is a conflict in their dual roles as attorneys with the law firm defending BP in court. Two other state legislators at the firm, state Sen. Joe Negron and state Rep. Joe Gibbons — are also of counsel at Akerman.
shim-6229617Villalobos, who chairs the Senate rules committee and sits on the policy and steering committee on energy, environment and land use, wrote to Akerman chairman Andrew Smulian on behalf of the firm’s four legislators on May 24.

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He requested that the four be “walled off” and isolated from any “discussions, documents or activities of any kind between the firm and BP.”
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He noted the legislators’ “of counsel” status at the firm means they have no ownership stake or access to the firm’s financial records and do not share in firm profits.
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“By serving in the ‘of counsel’ relationship, the legislators who are associated with the firm are not involved in any manner with this client nor do we have access to files or information relating to the firm’s representation of BP,” the letter stated.

The problem is that the state is preparing to sue BP.This would mean that if Dan Gelber is elected Florida’s Attorney General, he will be supervising a highly significant piece of litigation against his own firm (or possibly former firm).

Can a Chinese Wall (how anachronistic is that?) and “of counsel” relationship cure that issue?

(Both Dan and Dave Aronberg are buddies and both are immensely qualified btw.)