February 28, 2023

Introduction and summary

       Welcome and thank you for visiting. I am an attorney who used to work at O'Melveny & Myers. I was so surprised by what I saw there that I took on the role of amateur journalist and started this website. It's one of those acts that takes little time, but might do some good by shining a light. Below is a summary, which I hope you find informative.

       1. According to the New York Times, an O'Melveny attorney used violent imagery to threaten a sexual abuse victim into silence, as her assailant watched. This led to an additional decade of sexual abuse by the assailant, and the attorney became a go-to hire for rich men accused of sexual assault (links one and two.) The above may have influenced the attorney's own son, who was arrested for violating a domestic violence restraining order. Later, Mother Jones revealed that this same attorney chose not to stop a client's racist comments about a judge. This person is
chair of O'Melveny's Trial Practice Committee and vice chair of the firm.

       2. The firm has a history of conducting reportedly sham "independent investigations," in exchange for money. For example, see this story in Corporate Counsel accusing O'Melveny partner Adam Karr of conducting a sham investigation of sexual abuse at Lions Gate. A saint of a woman returned over a million dollars to break her confidentiality agreement and reveal that information. Or see these stories about a woman who learned that her alleged sexual assaulter's personal lawyer (O'Melveny) had been hired to "independently investigate" whether he assaulted her (links one and two.) Or see this story about an O'Melveny alumnus who was arrested by the FBI, as he negotiated his fee for an independent investigation.

       3. One of O'Melveny's practice group leaders reportedly lied to a federal court. Once caught in that lie by the discovery of documents, he gave a radio interview criticizing the Geneva Convention.

       4. The firm has a money-obsessed culture, which they called "eat what you kill." Normally this just means that O'Melveny's lawyers constantly search the dockets for new cases, as they sit around hoping for one of their clients to get sued, after which they rush to pitch for the work. But sometimes it might go further. For example, query whether they needlessly dragged out an alleged rape victim's case to maximize partner profits, and then bragged about the money they made off of her in a press release. Or query whether they were the only defense firm to drag out the Oklahoma opioid crisis case, damaging their client's reputation and likely resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths, to maximize partner profits (links one, two, three and four). For a numerical example of the "feast or famine" manner in which one O'Melveny group allocated profits among its partners, see here.

       5. Naturally, O'Melveny's partners are exceedingly cheap. For example, they upset law students by cutting summer associate pay by about $10,000, and replacing it with a $10,000 loan from the partners. That financial maneuver boosted partner profits by about 0.24%. So a partner who would have made $2,000,000 in that year now made about $4,800 more, as a result of reducing summer associate pay by $10,000. According to a lawsuit, the firm also provides employees with cheap medical insurance.

       6. Further on the topic of money, an O'Melveny attorney once shared their plan to "monetize" a government position. Consistent with this view, O'Melveny has repeatedly tried to change case law to make it harder to prosecute public officials who engage in quid pro quo corruption (cases one, two and three.) For an example of an O'Melveny attorney who used a government position for his own personal purposes, see these two posts (links one and two). It doesn't always work out though; one of O'Melveny's friends got arrested by the FBI for trying to do this.

       7. O'Melveny contrives claims to intimidate people. For example, after I published this website, they accused me of the federal crime of stealing confidential information – without any digital evidence that I even accessed the data they accused me of taking. When I reminded them that they won't have much of a case without evidence, they threatened me with a defamation lawsuit. But when I asked them to identify a specific defamatory statement so that I could retract it, they refused to do so.

       8. O'Melveny was at the forefront of the document used to silence victims -- the mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreement. Although three federal courts told O'Melveny that its document was "unconscionable" (cases one, two and three) -- O’Melveny continued to force its employees to sign it until 2018, when law students pressured law firms to abandon this practice.

       9. The firm retaliates against employees who complain about problematic practices. They even reportedly launched a "witch hunt" to find an employee who complained anonymously.

       10. The inspector general chided an O'Melveny alumnus for threatening scientists in a way that had "life and death consequences."

       11. Per ABC News's Sacramento affiliate, O'Melveny's lacking advice embarrassed the governor's office and cost California wildfire victims billions of dollars.

       12. A judge devoted a paragraph of his opinion to criticizing O'Melveny's lack of professionalism. 

       13. A letter O'Melveny wrote on behalf of a client was so "absurd" that it caught the attention of reporters.

       14. O'Melveny claims to support pro bono work, but a counsel said they fired him because he spent too much time on pro bono matters.

       15. O'Melveny claims to support diversity by following the Mansfield Rule, but their track record suggests otherwise. O'Melveny also hired two partners who were sued for discrimination, by a Latina single mother, at their prior firm. It also seems to follow the too-common law firm practice of assigning minorities to cases where they fight someone of their own group.

       16. The firm consistently grades itself at the top-end, usually the top three, in Vault's self-graded rankings. This led to complaints from law students who felt misled by what they thought was an undeservedly high score. Eventually, another firm decided to copy O'Melveny's gamesmanship, and started giving itself the highest scores too. That firm rose from a low position in the rankings to the number one spot in all of them, in only one year.

       17. O'Melveny tries to manipulate journalists into advertising for the firm. Here is their manager of public relations explaining how to do this on the show, "Law firm marketing catalyst." Some of the resulting articles are provably false.

       18. The firm was even lambasted in the press for trying to remove truthful information from Wikipedia, of all things.

       If you think this website is unusual, please note that I'm not the first person to do this. The late Judge Stephen Reinhardt expressed his public disgust with things he saw at O'Melveny back in the 1980s. A legal recruiter, whose livelihood depends on ingratiating himself to law firms, publicly shared a shocking story from O'Melveny. An O'Melveny attorney used twitter to talk about everything they lost while working there. And there's more that I haven't said, because I do not have hard evidence and don't want to be caught in a "he said, she said" defamation case (see #7 above), or because the person who shared the information asked me not to post it here. I'm largely restricted to writing about things that made it into the news, which may be the tip of the iceberg.

       I hope this information helps you. Please contact me at tips@omelvenymyersethics.org if you have something to add (and please feel free to use anonymous encrypted email providers, like proton mail.) I can also call you if you would prefer to talk via phone
. Please do not send tips. This blog is retired.
Brad Butwin, Dan Petrocelli, Brian Boyle, Adam Karr, omm, omelveny, Brandon Jacobsen

Retiring this blog

       I'm going to go ahead and do something I've been wanting to do for a while, retire this blog. So this will be the last entry. If you would like more such reading material, please see the syllabus of a new course being taught at Duke Law School. 

O'Melveny allegedly tricked a surgical center into accepting its cheap medical insurance

       According to their complaint, before performing surgery on an O'Melveny employee, a prestigious Beverly Hills surgical center called the firm to confirm that its plan would pay their rate. O'Melveny allegedly responded that it would, and so the doctors took their word for it and operated the next day.

       Then after the operation was completed, O'Melveny said its plan would only pay about 10% of the $200,000 bill. The center expected to be paid based on the promise. So after almost two years, they assigned the bill to their debt collector who filed suit. O'Melveny has responded by removing the case to federal court, seemingly to try and avoid payment via an ERISA technicality. It did not hire a firm to defend the lawsuit; it's using its own internal attorneys: staff attorney James Kidder and partner Catalina Vergara.

       As I understand, unless it's an emergency, when a patient's insurance won't pay for a doctor's services, the patient simply goes to another provider. This happens all the time in the United States, which has tiers of medical providers, each with a commensurate cost. If you have really cheap insurance, many doctors will not accept you as a patient. And this doesn't seem to have been an emergency as, according to the complaint, the surgery was performed a day after the center spoke with O'Melveny. 

       I can't imagine the center would make all this up so, assuming they're telling the truth . . . O'Melveny doesn't seem to provide employees with good medical insurance. Excerpt from the complaint below:
27. On February 27, 2020, Medical Provider conducted surgery and provided services on and for patient for the benefit of Patient and DEFENDANT.

28. On February 26, 2020, Medical Provider’s representative Y.P. spoke with Defendant’s representative Shelly.

29. Defendant represented to Medical Provider that Patient’s deductible is and was $5,000.00 and that the deductible had been met and Patient’s Max Out of Pocket (“MOOP”)expense is and was $7,000.00 and that to date for the calendar year Patient had paid $257.73.

30. Defendant represented to Medical Provider that Medical Provider would be paid for medical services at one hundred (100) percent of the UCR amount.

31. DEFENDANT further represented that payment would not be made at a rate based on Medicare.

32. All of the information obtained in said conversation was documented by Medical Provider at the time of the phone conversation as part of Medical Provider’s policy and practice.

33. At no time prior to the provision of services to Patient by Medical Provider, during conversations between Medical Provider and DEFENDANT did DEFENDANT advise Medical Provider that Patient’s policy or certificate of insurance was subject to certain exclusions, limitations, or qualifications, which might result in denial of coverage, limitation of payment or any other method of payment unrelated to the UCR rate.

34. DEFENDANT did not make reference to any other portion of Patient’s plan that would put Medical Provider on notice of any reduction in the originally stated payment percentage.

35. Despite representing that payment would be made at the UCR rate, DEFENDANT knew or should have known that it would not be paying Medical Provider at the UCR rate.

36. Despite representing that payment would not be made at a Medicare rate, DEFENDANT knew or should have known that it would be paying Medical Provider at a Medicare rate.

37. Medical Provider relied and provided services solely based on DEFENDANT’s statements, promises and representations. Statements which had no relation to DEFENDANT and Patient’s plan document, as the statements may or may not have been based in the DEFENDANT or Patient’s plan documents, but that bore no consideration when Medical Provider agreed to provide medical services. Medical Provider took DEFENDANT at its word and promises and provided services based solely on those promises and representations. . . . 

40. Under either scenario, following the procedure, Medical Provider submitted to DEFENDANT any and all billing information required by DEFENDANT, including a total bill for $200,009.00.

41. DEFENDANT paid $21,573.14 to Medical Provider. The amount paid was well below the billed amount and well below a UCR amount.

42. As of the date of this complaint, DEFENDANT has still refused to make the appropriate payment to Medical Provider and Medical Provider was and now HAMOC is entitled to that payment from DEFENDANT.
O'Melveny health plan, O'Melveny medical plan, O'Melveny wellness,  healthcare,  OMM benefits

February 11, 2023

What an of counsel makes at O'Melveny

       In a prior post, I described an of counsel who had berated me because he mistakenly thought I was trying to take work that he could be doing. You'll see dozens of these of counsels at O'Melveny, almost all retired partners, and I remember associates wondering why they still came in. Well, a divorce filing might answer that question, so I should probably add it to this site to inform readers.

       As stated in the court's opinion, the divorcee began working at O'Melveny in the 1980s, became a partner in the early 1990s, retired a few years ago, and is now an of counsel at the firm. Based on the filings, he made between $1 million and $2 million per year in his later years as a partner.

       Jumping to the numbers, his income and expense declaration states that in 2021 he received:
  • $375 per hour for about eight hours of work per week at O'Melveny. This would be about 8 x $375 x 52 = $156,000 per year.
  • About $15,500 per month from the O'Melveny & Myers Partnership Agreement Retirement Benefit defined benefit pension plan. (A portion of this goes to his ex-wife, and they are currently litigating over that amount. The legal issue is how the "time rule" should be used to split payments from this particular pension plan. What's amusing is that this dispute over a grand or so per month could wind up affecting other retired and divorced O'Melveny partners. I assume the plan's fiduciary will inform similarly situated retirees of the case.) Any way, this would be about $15,500 x 12 or $186,000 per year.
  • A distribution of $93,000 from the O'Melveny & Myers Partnership Deferred Compensation Plan. His ex-wife also received $93,000 from that plan, so if not for the divorce he would have received the sum of those two, or about $186,000 in 2021. 
  • About $21,000 of "CEI Distribution" and "Tax Distro."
       Add the four above and you get $549,000 of income in 2021, of which $156,000 came from the eight hours per week that he worked, and $393,000 came from the firm's retirement plans. So there you have it. If you were wondering why so many retired of counsels continue to come into the office, it's to receive the part-time income described above, and possibly other income from their own clients unrelated to O'Melveny.

       As with the last post, I won't publish the full document without O'Melveny's permission, although again this is all publicly available information that anyone can download from the court's website. The snippets below have the key numbers. 

February 2, 2023

Attorney sues O'Melveny after being fired for "too many pro bono hours"

       This attorney did pro bono work to help satisfy his 1900 billable hours target. According to O'Melveny's website, that should have been fine. It states that "pro bono hours may be used to fulfill all firm billing expectations, including bonus consideration." But apparently that's not really true.

       Excerpt from the complaint below.

15. At all times, Plaintiff was in good standing and competently performed his job duties, such that he was promoted as “Counsel” in March 01, 2022, until he was wrongfully terminated on or about December 01, 2022.

16. As required in his employment contract, Plaintiff continuously completed and serviced over 1900 hours of billable and pro bono work for OMM every year. 

17. From the start of 2022, Plaintiff noticed he was gradually given less work such that he incessantly advised OMM and/or DOES 1 through 25 of his inability to meet his billable requirements due to the lack of billable assignments presented to Plaintiff.

18. Despite Plaintiff’s countless requests and advisory notices, he was prejudicially prevented from working on crucial billable projects and transactions on the basis of his race, gender, and sexual orientation.

19. The work environment created by OMM and/or DOEs 1 through 25 was hostile, but OMM and/or DOEs 1 through 25 did nothing to investigate or redress the prejudice and discrimination.

20. Yet, Plaintiff impressively managed to exceed his billable requirement before the end of the 2022 term because Plaintiff unilaterally sourced more work by engaging in significant pro bono projects, as authorized per OMM’s policies, which specifically “encourages and gives lawyers full billable credit for every hour recorded on pro bono matters,” ultimately qualifying Plaintiff for bonus compensation in addition to his 2022 salary.

21. On December 01, 2022, Plaintiff was wrongfully deceived into organizing, coordinating, and attending a meeting with OMM and/or DOEs 1 through 25 to discuss “staffing,” where he was unexplainably and wrongfully terminated on the basis that he billed too many pro bono hours.

       The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his case with prejudice a few weeks after filing, which suggests that O'Melveny settled the case.

O'Melveny layoffs, stealth layoffs, OMM, discrimination, wrongful termination, pro bono, 1999 Avenue of the Stars 8th Floor,   Los Angeles, CA 90067

January 21, 2023

What an O'Melveny partner's profit distribution documents look like

       I was wondering if I should post these, which come from public filings in a divorce case. Since this website's goal is to educate about the firm, I might as well. Readers may want to know what a partner's distribution package looks like. This partner also has a backstory that touches on O'Melveny's culture. (Besides, I have jury duty next week and the profession is on my mind again, so I might as well write a post.)

       I actually met this woman and worked with her on a few matters. She was promoted to partner a few years ago. The most interesting story about her, is that she and another partner ended the careers of a group of associates. They did so after taking over a client from an attorney who had left over money issues. 

       That departing attorney had, I want to say, eight or so associates helping him. When these two women took over they made that entire team transfer their knowledge. Then they gradually stopped giving them work. I can only speculate as to the reasons. In any case, the prior team was now struggling to meet their billable hour requirements, and they slowly left. 

       Last I heard, one was coding, one was a career counselor at a law school, one stopped working for years and then took a job at a small law firm, one was doing compliance, one works for a county, and one works for a city. I think there were a few more that I don't remember; it's been a while. That was O'Melveny's culture. A group of dedicated and hard-working attorneys had their careers derailed, just because these two women decided to stop giving them work.

       Don't feel bad for the associates though. In the universe of unfairness what happened to them is trivial. This website has much worse examples, e.g. the half a million Americans and counting who have lost their lives as a result of the actions of lawyers and lobbyists, including O'Melveny.

       Getting back to the topic of this post ... I'll ask O'Melveny's public relations people if I can publish the full 99-page document, and won't until I get their permission. It's a public document that anyone can download from the court's website but I'll let them decide. 

       Maybe they'll even share this information on their own, for all partners. I mean, what is the point of keeping it secret? Are they hiding it from other O'Melveny partners, who might be upset because they make less than they feel they deserve? From employees, who might be annoyed at being nickel and dimed? From clients, who might push back on billing rates? From victims, who might see how much an O'Melveny partner makes for contriving machinations to deny them compensation for an injury? 

       For now, below is the redacted first page for 2019 and 2020, which has the key numbers. For reference, O'Melveny made $396 million in profit in 2019, and $457 million in profit in 2020, split among about 170 partners in each year. And remember that this was a junior partner, so the numbers will be bigger for more senior partners. 

       The only other interesting thing I saw in the docket was that, after her husband filed for divorce, he received not only his share of community property, but due to her high income, he also received alimony and child support.
O'Melveny, OMM, compensation, salary, income, wages, 610 Newport Center Drive17th Floor, Newport Beach, CA 92660
O'Melveny profits per partner compensation

O'Melveny profits per partner compensation

August 27, 2022

Judge criticizes O'Melveny's lack of professionalism

       Excerpt from the opinion below.

Before getting to the jurisdictional question, an observation about Bitmain's briefs is required. Overall, the briefs filed by Bitmain's counsel, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, fell below the standards of professionalism and quality expected of every litigant and counsel in this District. The many instances of this will be called out in the ensuing discussion, but the Court notes at the start that it has serious concerns about O'Melveny & Myers’ repeated citations to overruled cases, and legal tests that were expressly disapproved well before it filed its brief. These practices are not consonant with O'Melveny & Myers’ duty of candor, and they unduly burdened the Court and opposing counsel with frivolous arguments. Bitmain and its attorneys are advised that future conduct along these lines will be sanctioned, including but not limited to monetary sanctions, defense or evidence preclusion, and professional conduct sanctions. There is no room in our busy and resource-constrained federal courts for parties and lawyers who do not play by the rules and fight fairly on the merits.

Gevorkyan v. Bitmain Techs. Ltd., No. 18-CV-07004-JD, 2022 WL 3702093, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2022)

O'Melveny, OMM, cryptocurrency, crypto, bitcoin, DAO

July 14, 2022

The world of banking lawyers, and our current high inflation

       Last year I wrote about the career of Bimal Patel. I have been meaning to add to that post, because there are a number of other banking lawyers with interesting careers, including one who is having a huge impact on the day to day lives of Americans.

       To review Bimal's career, he had a keen desire for money. But he couldn't make it at O'Melveny because he had few or no clients. O'Melveny's "eat what you kill" culture only pays those who produce billable hours. So he devised a scheme to, in his words, "monetize" government positions into a lucrative salary. You can read the details in that prior post

       Now take a look at Citadel's general counsel Heath Tarbert. Before chronicling his career, I should let you know that I worked with his wife, who said good things about me (so you don't think that I don't really know these people.) Mr. Tarbert's career started at a law firm, where he worked from 2003-2005. He then pursued clerkships and government positions between 2005 and 2010. That led to his first chance to make a lot of money, as a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. That didn't work out as he seemingly couldn't find clients. I say that based on this quote in the legal website Above the Law, in which someone who knew him said he had to leave Weil because the firm "didn’t support his efforts to develop" a practice. This friend may have been right. It might have been a lack of support. Regardless, he couldn't "make it rain" at Weil and so he had to leave.

       So in 2014 he went to Allen & Overy. Seeing how dead our bank regulatory practice was at O'Melveny, I wrote him in 2015 to ask how it was there. He replied that it was very slow, and that they were not looking for anyone. My boss at O'Melveny Brian Boyle confirmed this. He said I could speak with some higher-up at Allen & Overy if I wanted to see how bad they were struggling. So apparently, Mr. Tarbert hadn't learned how to bring in clients and projects at Allen & Overy either.

       So not surprisingly, he left Allen & Overy in 2017 to join the Trump administration, and he didn't return when those political appointments ended. Instead, he joined Citadel Securities, the very wealthy market maker, where he is presumably doing well for himself. That's similar to what Bimal did. He tried to monetize a government position into a lucrative and stable long-term salary, failed, and went back into government to try again until he achieved his goal. 

       Or consider Kathryn Ruemmler, the general counsel of Goldman Sachs. Her career also evidences a possible desire to monetize government, as she went from the law firm of Latham & Watkins, to government, and back to Latham, to government, and back. Then, after an interesting event, she moved from Latham to Goldman Sachs. According to this article, in July of 2019 she appeared at Jeffrey Epstein's court hearing. One source described it as "probably" "a show of support" for Mr. Epstein, with whom she had a “professional relationship." She sat behind Mr. Epstein's legal team in court. Her time at Latham ended shortly thereafter and she joined Goldman Sachs in 2020. You didn't misread that. She felt she had to take time out of her day and go into court to publicly support Mr. Epstein. A letter or phone call wasn't enough for her. She wanted to really be there for him. And this isn't the first time she supported this sort of person. That's the general counsel of Goldman Sachs.

       If you would like other examples, consider Bank of America's former general counsel David Leitch, who also cycled in and out of high-level government positions. He wrote me to tell me there was no room for me at his organization, because I had protested his friend Brian Boyle's torture advocacy, attacks on the Geneva convention and reported dishonesty in federal court. That was Bank of America's general counsel.

       Or consider Brian Brooks, who was the general counsel at Fannie Mae and Coinbase, and his attempt to convert his government job into a cryptocurrency fortune (links one and two.) He may very well have destroyed the lives of some who invested in crypto as a result of his efforts. Recently, there have been numerous articles about crypto-related suicides. 

       Or consider Ryne Miller. He parlayed years of experience at the CFTC, including as counselor to its Chair Gary Gensler, into a partnership at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell and then a general counsel position at decabillionaire Sam Bankman Fried's cryptocurrency exchange. [Addendum: A coworker of Mr. Miller later filed an affidavit attesting that Mr. Miller was hired by the exchange because he "emphasized his close relationship with [SEC Commissioner Gary Gensler] at every possible opportunity."] 

       I could give you other examples but I'll stop here. Hopefully by now you are starting to understand the culture of banking law. If you told lawyers in other areas that they shouldn't use a government position for their personal pecuniary benefit, they might agree with you. In banking law, they would laugh at you. 

       With that background on banking lawyers, let me move to the main topic of this post: Jerome Powell, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Like the people above, Mr. Powell started his career in lower-level positions in law firms and a bank. Then in 1990, he entered the Department of Treasury. That's when the money started rolling in. He parlayed that government position into his first lucrative job, as a Managing Director of Bankers Trust, which he joined in 1993. That didn't go well. He "quit his position at Bankers Trust in 1995, after the bank became embroiled in a trading scandal that cost its clients hundreds of millions of dollars." But he came out fine. He moved to other high-paying banking and investing jobs until returning to government after the 2008 financial crisis. Standard revolving door playbook.

       In 2018, the president put Mr. Powell in charge of managing the nation's inflation and employment rate. It was only the second time in history that a lawyer was picked for the position of Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Usually the position goes to an economist. The only other time a lawyer was nominated was in 1978, when Cravath, Swaine & Moore alumnus G. William Miller took the position. Hold onto that year of 1978 as we'll get back to it later. Any way, in 2020, Mr. Powell inexplicably declared a new approach to inflation called "average inflation targeting." Basically, he would be easier on inflation than were prior Fed Chairs. I'm not sure why he changed something that had worked for decades; he claimed it would be good for the country.

       It wasn't. Just two years later, inflation is the highest it's been in 40 years. And while some argue that this is temporary, we don't know what will happen. As you can see in the graph below, right now the two key metrics -- actual inflation and inflation expectations (a survey of where people think inflation will go) are where they were in 1978, before a four year period of very high inflation and two recessions. When I started working, older employees would tell me about that time, about how "PhDs had to drive taxi cabs to survive." It was a bad time economically.

Fred michigan inflation expectations

       I am not making any predictions and I hope we don't repeat the late seventies. But in at least one analogous point in the past, 1978, things got much worse before they got better. So anyone guaranteeing that inflation will quickly subside and that we'll avoid a recession has one counterexample to explain away. Here is the source data if you would like to play with it. I also included the "10-2" (a number that, when it goes negative, predicts a recession, as it did in 1978, and which is currently negative) along with the federal funds rate (the interest rate that is set by the Federal Reserve and Mr. Powell, which is anomalously low in light of where it was relative to inflation historically.)

       Some commentators wonder if the Federal Reserve can even raise interest rates to lower inflation, as it did in 1980, because the government is more indebted today. Per the graph below, government debt as a percentage of GDP is four times what it was back then. They say that raising rates will raise the government's debt payment, and so is not sustainable beyond a small raise. (Others say that rate increases are sustainable in the short-term, and that a short-term raise is all that's required to lower inflation. Also, a lot of this debt is long-term debt whose interest payment doesn't change as short-term rates increase, and whose value will go down as interest rates rise.) Depending on how this dynamic plays out, the situation might be worse now than it was in 1978. 

Fred government debt

       As you can see, Mr. Powell's decision to go soft on inflation may have been a regrettable mistake. By letting the inflation genie out of the bottle, he might have created a problem that will be painful to fix.

       Hopefully things magically resolve. Still, the president may wish to think twice before appointing another lawyer to the position of Federal Reserve Chair. As I explained here, lawyers aren't necessarily interested in the truth. Their job is to cherry pick facts and laws, and spin them to advance their client's interest. Sometimes, this means obfuscating and distracting from the truth. And yes, cherry picking and spinning, being deceptive, being intellectually dishonest . . . these can be useful skills in life. They're very effective in court, in sales, and other areas where one has to be an advocate. But they're not really useful for a Federal Reserve Chair.  
Kathy Ruemmler Goldman Sachs, Kathryn Ruemmler Latham Watkins, Kathy Ruemmler Obama attorney
Jerome Powell inflation

June 16, 2022

Greg Jacob and his friend Michael Luttig

       As I watch Greg Jacob on television, as I hear him quoting Bible passages, I can't help but to recall my interactions with him.

       I don't want to restate the events; it's all chronicled in my original post here. You should probably read that before reading the rest of this post, as it won't make sense without that background. But I'll add one bit of color here. The mid-2015 St. Louis trial that I described in that original post was a trial for Boeing. In a conference room during that trial, Boeing's General Counsel Michael Luttig -- the person who testified alongside Greg Jacob today -- lectured us about why the United States was justified in the way it dealt with alleged enemy combatants. He sat next to Brian Boyle, praised Mr. Boyle's skills as an attorney, and then explained that when dealing with terrorists, you want them to think that you're crazier and more unpredictable than they are, and that's why the war on terror's methods are justified.

       Remember, this was an ERISA case. Why was he giving a speech on this other far off topic? Now that I know how close he was to Greg Jacob, I think I might know why. The reason I was abruptly assigned to that case was probably because Brian or Greg called their buddy Michael Luttig, explained the memo I had written, and had me assigned to the case in order to get me to drop it. It worked; I e-mailed human resources and told them to drop the matter. I didn't want to be sitting next to Brian Boyle in a small war room as they investigated my complaint against him. You can read about how that story turned out in the original post if you're interested, but it wasn't good.

       That's the impact Greg Jacob and his pal Michael Luttig had on my life. And I'm not sure I buy the hero story they are now writing about themselves. Let me start by distilling what happened in the months preceding January 6, because the facts get lost in the rhetoric. Mr. Trump thought that the election had been stolen from him. That opened the door for John Eastman to give Mr. Trump a strategy to litigate his dispute. At that time, Mr. Eastman thought he could win based, among other things, on prior statements by law professor Laurence Tribe. (According to Mr. Jacob, Mr. Eastman later retracted this prediction and acknowledged that he would lose in court.)

       Mr. Luttig, Mr. Jacob and others then argued that Mr. Eastman's position was not worthy of a resolution in the courts. Mr. Pence listened to them, and told Mr. Trump that he would not carry out the plan. That is presumably what caused Mr. Trump and others to assemble a protest, seemingly to pressure Mr. Pence, and the protesters broke into the capitol building.

       Mr. Eastman certainly should not have proffered his litigation strategy. But once he did, what would have happened if Mr. Pence had followed the plan? Everyone involved agrees that the Supreme Court would have struck it down swiftly and provided closure, rather than letting it linger for years as it has. That is all that would have happened. Democracy wouldn't have ended, and the apocalyptic things Mr. Jacob and Mr. Luttig say they prevented would not have occurred. All that would have happened is that the matter would have been dealt with authoritatively by the highest court, with closure.

       And for all his talk of respecting and honoring the law . . . Mr. Luttig doesn't respect it when it goes against him. Here he writes about a possible Supreme Court ruling on election law. He first explains why the court will likely rule against the position that he wants. He then declares that if they rule that way -- if they rule for the side that he doesn't like -- then it's tantamount to "Trump and the Republicans stealing . . . the 2024 election." The highest court in the country would be nothing more than a thief's accomplice if it disagrees with him.

       Similarly, Mr. Pence was reportedly fine with abuse of executive power, if it got him something that he wanted. According to Salon magazine, he and President Trump had concocted a scheme to bomb Iran in the final months of Trump's term. This plan "reflected Trump's seeming willingness 'to do anything to stay in power.'" The article quotes General Milley as saying Mr. Pence was "intent" on carrying out the military attack. If the article is accurate, then Mr. Pence would have let the president start a possible war to stay in power. That's who Mike Pence is. President Trump cancelled the plan only after other advisors counseled against it.

       If you want to predict how lawyers like Mr. Pence or Mr. Luttig will act, perhaps don't rely on the normative values they exhort. Lawyers were trained to say whatever will advance their client's interest. It's their job to say one thing in one setting, and say the exact opposite in another setting, depending on what they were trying to advance in each of those two settings. They'll say whatever suits them at that moment. So please don't expect Mr. Pence to not abuse executive power when it suits him, and please don't expect Mr. Luttig to respect the rule of law, including the Geneva Convention, when it goes against him.

       Ultimately, a lawyer started the mess by advancing a frivolous theory, then other lawyers exacerbated it by preventing an authoritative court from deciding the matter. And now with Joe Biden's approval rating at an all-time low -- lawyers Liz Cheney and Jamie Raskin are conducting what some call a "show trial" in an attempt to prevent Mr. Trump from running again. Things are a mess and I have no clue how this will all turn out.

       [Addendum: Apparently Mr. Jacob had been trying to leave O'Melveny. In 2018, he reportedly used O'Melveny's connections to the Trump administration to apply for a career position at the Department of Labor (a career government position is often held for decades, as opposed to a political one that ends with the president's term.) Only after that stalled did he take the job as Vice President Pence's advisor. I wouldn't be surprised if he's still looking to leave. I suspect it's unfortunate at O'Melveny at all levels.

       Mr. Luttig seems to be trying to become a social media star. Here he asks a handful of established social media lawyers for a retweet, presumably to get more likes and followers. Good luck on your next tweet Mr. Luttig.]
O'Melveny OMM

May 14, 2022

Life at O'Melveny

       A new case is a good example of how, at O'Melveny & Myers, you may work with a certain type of personality to achieve a certain type of end. 

       The best way to explain an experience is via anecdotes, so please allow me to share a few before getting to the point of the post. Shortly after I started at O'Melveny, I was chatting with a partner when a woman, Justine Daniels, walked up and said something like, "so I'm being replaced," in that accusatory tone that lawyers have mastered. I wrote about this before. The partner was in a slow practice group. I was in a different group on their floor, so this other group's associates would accuse me of taking work that they could be doing. It only happened a handful of times, but that was too often for my tastes. Who wants to be accused of taking another person's livelihood?

       One day I was in my office as Justine talked to a male associate a few doors down. For some reason, she very loudly interjected with something like, "it's like oral sex; they're going to know if you don't like doing it!" The guy was quiet and studious so I don't think he appreciated that analogy.

       Another day, she was down the hall screaming about a dispute she was having with someone. In a voice people use when they're about to cry, she screeched, "they're a contract attorney!" I don't know what the discussion was about, other than that she was emphasizing this person's lower rank to make a point.

       One day she and I were in an attorney's office, when he loaded the "new hire" announcement website for an incoming associate. He groaned and said something like, "I'm going to destroy him." I assume in jest, or maybe not? (Again, remember that this was a slow practice group.) Then Justine excitedly said something like, "did you see what I did to" so and so, reminding him of the time she had apparently harmed someone's future. This attitude of taking pleasure in harming others was something I've seen in law more than any other area of society. I'm suddenly recalling a partner in Century City sharing a story about how she ruined an attorney's future. 

       Getting back to Justine, she then shared her husband's business idea for "bum fucks," a derivation of the "bum fights" videos of the time. The plan was to get homeless people to have sex on camera or something like that. Having been quiet as I processed all of this, I joked that it could inspire men looking for dates, so that I didn't seem disapproving.

       One time at lunch, a bunch of attorneys were discussing how O'Melveny wasn't like the television shows about law firms. The then managing partner, Carla Christofferson, came by and we complained to her about that, after which she said that her life was like a television show and walked off. We then joked that she had mocked our humdrum lives. We were just having fun.

       We also talked about the show Mad Men. Who would each of the people at O'Melveny be on that show? To chime in, I said something like, "Ted [my boss] would be the Bertram Cooper character." Justine then said that she would be the show's "negress." 

       She was vocal on racial issues. For example, she once lectured me after I said I liked downtown Los Angeles's "urban" feel. I meant that it was more Manhattan-like than the suburban parts of the city, but apparently "urban" isn't a word you should ever use to describe things, because it means black people. I think she did all of this to emphasize her racial capital. As I wrote here, and as explained by this popular law review article -- if you can survive the discrimination -- there is a real and material economic value to being black in a predominantly white environment. Life at O'Melveny was a cut-throat competition for billable hours and once you made partner, a competition for margin. Its lawyers used every asset at their disposal to try and get ahead, and I guess this was one of her assets.

       In 2015, two partners invited me to a small gathering on our floor. One of the partners had recently invested in a Hawaiian shirt business, and they said they would wear them there. So I paid like $70 to buy one, put it on it and attended. When I talked to Justine at the party, she repeatedly called me a "mook," saying that I acted like a mook and that I even had the face of a mook. I didn't know exactly what the word meant so I ignored it, hoping it had dual meanings, perhaps one of which wasn't insulting. She then asked if I knew anything about an obscure legal topic she was working on, and I suggested areas to investigate to be responsive, after which she rolled her eyes and said something like, "duh!"

       Justine then started in on a relatively new associate. This young woman was from a working class background in a more rural part of California, but she had worked her way to an ivy league school, multiple clerkships and hopefully a bright future. I could sense that Justine had mixed feelings about her though. Perhaps she felt threatened, maybe the work issue from earlier or something else. I don't know. At one point she put her arm around the young woman and declared that she was the future of O'Melveny, in a tone that hinted at belittlement.

       Eventually the group disbanded and it was just me, this other girl and Justine in my office. The same sort of nonsense continued for an hour or so, e.g. Justine said Ayn Rand was the young woman's bible or something like that. She also attacked the young woman's whiteness, calling her an insult for white people, I want to say Aryan. I tried my best to seem jovial and not offended, trying to participate in the discussion as I waited for things to naturally conclude. Eventually, Justine said something about this young woman's sex life (her boyfriend lived out of state) and I could tell it was the final straw. Her expression changed to, "ok I have had enough of this" and she abruptly left and went back into her office. Everyone has their limit.

       I was so concerned about this that I wrote an email to Justine's manager, and another email to my boss. When Justine called me to discuss, I told her honestly that I was just tired of her and ended the phone call. I was going through stress of my own around this time, and this was all getting to be too much. I didn't need to deal with her too. 

       Now, Justine wasn't unusual; she was a lawyer. As I wrote earlier, law breeds a certain type of personality. It's an acrimonious field. If you become a lawyer, you may spend your days working with a combative person, a person whose day-to-day goal is to eviscerate the other side. If they weren't that kind of person, they might not be able to last in law. Actually, now that I think of it, Justine was one of the nice lawyers. There was some humanity in her. The real mean lawyers were like the Terminator robot; they didn't waste time with emotion or extraneous communication; they were cold operators who killed in the most efficient way possible.

       Now that we've gone over who you might work with, let's look at what you might work on. Back in 2015, a poorly maintained oil pipeline ruptured and caused a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara. That tragedy led to all sorts of legislative, regulatory and other responses. It also prevented ExxonMobil from transporting oil from its offshore rigs, as there was now no pipeline. So they had to shut the rigs off.

       Exxon wants to turn the rigs on again, especially now with oil prices at their highest level in a decade. In lieu of the pipeline, Exxon wants to use trucks to transport the oil. They proposed "up to 24,800 oil-filled truck trips a year[.]" In the past, such trucks have crashed and spilled oil into rivers, so dozens of environmental groups opposed this plan. They started a campaign and, e.g., created the video below.

       And the environmental groups won. In March, they persuaded the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to reject Exxon’s trucking plan by a 3-2 vote. Well, the community has spoken, so I guess Exxon needs to either forget about those offshore rigs or build a new pipeline, right? Nope. This week, Exxon hired O'Melveny to force the county to allow the trucks; they hired Dawn Sestito and Justine Daniels. You can read their complaint here. If O'Melveny wins this case, (a) they will make Exxon a lot of money (and of course O'Melveny is paid well for this sort of big-impact work1) and (b) there will be rare but inevitable oil spills along these trucking routes.

       This is life at O'Melveny. And yes, I know O'Melveny's partners can make millions of dollars a year. If money is important to you, this life might be worth it at the partner level. But if money isn't important, or if you're a support employee with little chance of ever making that kind of money . . . there may be easier ways to make the same living.

1 I wonder if O'Melveny negotiated a "success fee" here whereby, if they win, Exxon will pay O'Melveny more than it would have paid under a simple billable hours arrangement. Incidentally, O'Melveny has made a fortune on oil spills. For example, they spent fourteen years billing on the Exxon Valdez spill (see this link from 1994 about the start of the litigation, and this link from 2008 about its end.)

April 17, 2022

Law can be an unpleasant profession (and my exchange with Amy Wax)

       Last week, Penn Law professor Amy Wax went on Tucker Carlson's show to argue that Indians come from a "shithole" country, which engenders feelings of jealousy within them, and causes them to criticize certain aspects of white culture. In the past, she made similar arguments about how Asians are culturally inferior. She has also said that the United States "will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites," again because nonwhite cultures are inferior. Ms. Wax's comments remind us that talented minorities may wish to think twice before possibly wasting their life in law.

       Let me try to explain via an example. Say you're an Indian engineer in Silicon Valley. Say you stumble on a speech proselytizing that tech companies will not be successful unless they hire white employees, and that Indian employees and their inferior culture impede success. You would have to laugh at how out of touch the speaker is. A big tech company couldn't compete without Indian and Chinese talent; it would be dead in the water and quickly overtaken.

       The same is true for many other industries. But in law, a big firm can succeed if it only hires white lawyers. As a matter of fact, there are huge and successful law firms that are essentially all-white. This unique aspect of the legal profession is why law is different from other industries. It's why racist thoughts can survive in law.

       Now, I don't mean to suggest that law is a great profession for white people. It can be an unpleasant job for them too. Lawyers are endlessly engaged in bitter and acrimonious fights. Indeed, I am not surprised to see Ms. Wax go on national television and use vulgar language to insult billions of people who did nothing to her. A life in law breeds that sort of personality. I am also not surprised to see Ms. Wax put on airs, despite the fact that according to Ari Cohn she comes from a family of relatively new Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Lawyers have to train their brains to lie. They do it so much that sometimes they start to believe their own role playing.

       The work of a lawyer doesn't necessarily make the world a better place either. Amy Wax talks about how Asian immigrants will harm the country, but, e.g., pharma lawyers, lobbyists and regulators started an opioid crisis that has killed half a million Americans so far, and could take decades to fix. Some lawyers make money by promoting corruption in government (and when lawyers do the right thing in the face of an incentive to be corrupt, they risk angering powerful people who will come for them with a vengeance.) All of the above occurs if the lawyer actually gets a client, which can be a demeaning process in itself.

       So no, please don't get me wrong, law is not exactly a dream job for white people. But it can be especially bad for minorities because in law, on top of everything else, they have to deal with racism at a level that couldn't exist in other professions.

*          *          *

       After listening to her comments, I wrote Ms. Wax to ask her to please research the history of India and China, as well as the state of the world as it is today. The British Empire may have temporarily turned those two countries into "shitholes," but I'm not sure why she would blame Indian and Chinese cultures for that. They did their best to repel the violence and economic waste the British would inflict. Unfortunately, they were a little behind in military technology, and so suffered a temporary dark period. Dr. Shashi Tharoor has numerous presentations on this history (links one and two.)

       But both India and China kicked the corrosive British out as soon as they could, and are quickly restoring their prosperity to levels that existed before the British arrived. For example, before the opium wars, China was in its affluent High Qing era, where it enjoyed a massive trade surplus with the rest of the world. Today, after decades of effort, China once again enjoys a massive trade surplus with the world. India is also on its way to recovering, after having an estimated $45 trillion looted by the British. Things are returning to the way they were before the 19th century. And that temporary period of decay reflects more on imperial British culture than it does Indian or Chinese culture.
Amy Wax, Penn, Indian medical students, brahmin
The global contribution to world's GDP by major economies from 1 CE to 2003 CE. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_the_world