March 10, 2017

O'Melveny & Myers and mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements

       I write this post for peace of mind, and to do what little I can to create some good in the world.

       On April 30th, 2015, after three years with this firm during which I received nothing but praise from others -- I told Brian Boyle that I did not want to work with someone who, among other things, had made an anti-Muslim comment. Brian's first response a few days later was to tell me he would terminate me. He then started winding down my work, making it clear that he was serious. I thought this was illegal under employment law, but I accepted it and prepared to move on. Anti-Muslim comments were not that unusual, and I didn't want to waste my time and energy fighting to stay somewhere I wasn't wanted.

       But this changed when I discovered his past. Brian used to be a Guantanamo Bay torture attorney who made statements so cruel they would make Dick Cheney or John Yoo give pause. He also reportedly lied to a federal court. It was no wonder he responded to me as he did. I felt I should try to stand up to him. So I asked for help from the firm's diversity group, reaching out to Leader of Diversity and Inclusion Mary Ellen Connerty and Diversity and Inclusion Partner Walter Dellinger. I provided a detailed chronology of events, and wrote the memo below. O'Melveny always marketed its diversity efforts, its annual "diversity days" and its diversity committees. They would help me. They would do something about this.

Date:   July 13, 2015
To:      O'Melveny & Myers LLP [Director of Human Resources Stacie Straw]
Re:      Chair of the Financial Services practice

       Please note that the purpose of this communication is to express a negative statement. Please accept my apologies in advance for this unpleasant letter.

       According to the articles below, in 2004, as lead attorney charged with defending the Guantanamo Bay detentions, Brian Boyle unequivocally told a federal court that there was nothing "remotely like torture" at Guantanamo Bay (It is now publicly acknowledged that there was torture and detainment of people who had no real connection to the war; in fact, the since-repudiated government memos authorizing such torture were written back in 2002.[1]) Brian also told the court that information gained via torture is admissible evidence. Further, he said that any person, with any inadvertent connection to the war, could be captured anywhere in the world and sent to Guantanamo. For example, an “old lady in Switzerland” could be captured and sent to Guantanamo if she donated money to an orphan charity that, unbeknownst to her, turned out to be connected to the Taliban. A teacher in London could be captured and sent to Guantanamo if one of his students turned out to be part of a family that had a connection to the Taliban.

       Brian's statements are not limited to court proceedings; they are his personal views. For example, he spoke in 2005 on The Diane Rehm Show. In this interview, he criticized the Geneva Convention's protections, stating, "this can't be Marquess of Queensberry [the rules for boxing matches]. The interrogation techniques that are permitted with respect to Geneva POWs are exceedingly limited. And I think there is no reason therefore to apply to protections of Geneva" to Guantanamo detainees. He also criticized his debate opponent’s "habeas litigation" because it was "having undesirable consequences on the performance of the mission at Guantanamo, undesirable consequences for the gathering of additional intelligence from the detainees down there . . .."

       Please allow me to provide an example, to explain why this issue is important. I am currently litigating in the Iranian civil and criminal courts to recover properties that were embezzled from my late murdered father (and please note I have specific permission from the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control). In this effort, I have encountered viciousness, threats and attempts to use anti-Americanism against me. But I also encountered idealistic people who believe in the rule of law in Iran, even if it benefits an American. There are different kinds of attorneys and judges in the world – some promote civility and the rule of law; others use their position to create a more corrupt and lawless world.

       As lead attorney with the power to supervise Guantanamo Bay, Brian was put in a historic position. He could have used his authority to protect the rule of law, and the idealism that our country creates. Instead, he argued that the United States should be as lawless, arbitrary and brutal as any despotic regime.

       In my opinion, this history shows that Brian might not use authority in an honest and responsible manner. In addition, Brian seems to dehumanize people, particularly people with a connection to Islam. I suspect that dishonest use of pretext and dehumanization manifested in his interactions with me, as detailed in the e-mail of July 3. But regardless of his interactions with me, for the above reasons, I do not believe he should be given management authority at a firm with the standards of O'Melveny & Myers.

[1] For background, see Jens David Ohlin, The Torture Lawyers, 51 Harv. Int'l L.J. 193 (2010) or Michael P. Scharf, The Torture Lawyers, 20 Duke J. Comp. & Int'l L. 389 (2010).  

       I waited, but human resources never contacted me. Instead, they suddenly shipped me to St. Louis to sit with Brian in a litigation war room. This was not a coincidence; in the past three years I had never worked with Brian, or in this matter's area of law, until this case. I was surprised by this turn of events, but what could I do? It was either go, stay quiet and hope for the best -- or quit.

       Then they sicced Adam Karr on me, a litigator who defends employers accused of discrimination. His first question was whether I wanted to drop the complaint, and he then made it clear via browbeating that I should keep quiet ("I'm not an ombudsman I'm an attorney for the firm." "I don't have to answer that I'm not responding to a subpoena." "I hope I don't hear from you again. You'll be an employee with a pattern of complaining." "It seems like you don't want to work here." [These may not be word-for-word accurate quotes as I'm going from memory, but they're very close.])

       After that I was moved into Brian's subgroup even though it was outside of my area of expertise. They worked on ERISA matters, whereas I previously worked on bank regulatory and consumer finance law. In his subgroup, I was treated like a persona non grata and told my career and compensation were at a dead end.
I repeatedly told Adam Karr that the situation was bizarre and uncomfortable, but was ignored each time. Again, what could I do other than quit? 

       I tried to stay positive, but feelings of apprehension started to linger. My office was on the floor where they tell employers how to legally get rid of complaining employees, and where they defend schools accused of allowing rape and other sexual misconduct. Almost every day I overheard such machinations against victims, and I empathized with them. As I was learning, the law doesn't really protect victims, because it's easy to game. Sometimes things got so bad that I would wake up in the middle of the night with feelings of dread and panic. This had never happened to me before. Curious for another perspective, I spent thousands of dollars on therapy, where I was constantly told that my feelings were a natural consequence of being in a terrible situation, and that the only solution was to leave the firm.

       Eventually things came to a head. During my February 27 review I glanced at the document to see it describe me as "timely," "helpful," "excellent and enthusiastic," "always prompt," "consistent," "engaged," thorough," "accura[te]," "quick," "a great resource," "hardworking," and "an asset to the firm," with a "knack for connecting complex issues." 

       Then I looked at the next page to see there wasn't a dollar of raise or promotion. I wasn't surprised; although I made one-fifteenth of the average partner's 2016 income of $2 million, worked a grueling schedule and consistently received good reviews from others -- Brian was the ultimate decider of such things. He hadn't given me a raise or promotion in five years, so why would this year be any different? Brian asked if I saw the tear sheet that lists the raise or promotion. Yes, saw it. He then spent about 20 seconds showing how his outstretched arms could reach from one side of my unusually small office to the other, while his junior partner cackled. I guess they were mocking my low "status" within the firm. 

       This junior partner, Catalina Vergara, was superficially nice but also someone I learned to avoid. When I was forced into Brian's group, I moved my office to her floor. She was the only partner from Brian's group who was in the Los Angeles office. She also marketed herself as an underprivileged Latina and champion of diversity, which sounded promising. I thought perhaps I could work with her. No, she was by far the most hostile partner in the group. I guess like Adam Karr, she was trying to show the senior partners that she would teach me a lesson. Once she flat out said something like, "because everyone's against you." What do you do in a moment like that? I walked away and pretended not to hear her. Later, I learned that associates mocked her claimed Latina status, as she came from well-off European ancestry. This was O'Melveny: disingenuous and avaricious people sitting around hoping to make millions off of victims' misery -- victims abused and injured far worse than me. Why would they treat me any differently than the people they litigated against?

       Next, another of Brian's junior partners, Greg Jacob, stepped in. Mr. Jacob wanted to sell a small project to a mid-sized energy company, but they wouldn't grant the firm a prospective conflict waiver. This was a problem for Randy Oppenheimer, who was constantly trying to sell work to Chevron and Exxon. He was worried that Mr. Jacob's small project would conflict with his possible future representation of those companies. So they decided to use google searches to resolve this concern. I was asked to do a google search of two company names, and then read pages of search results looking for a website that suggested a conflict. I was to do this 140 times, as there were 140 combinations of subsidiariesThis was a futile task; this process had no chance of finding all potential conflicts. And this at a firm with a history of conflict of interest issues. But the firm's general counsel Martin Checov and Jillian Weinstein were copied on the email, so I assume they signed off on this approach.  

       I called around to see if the library or conflicts group could help, but they both refused. They had turned this task down before it was assigned to me. I was now being given senseless tasks that the administrators could refuse. I don't know if Mr. Jacob was doing this to mess with me for his friend Brian, or because it was an atrociously run organization. It didn't really matter. I couldn't continue this for another year. So I gave up, told them I would quit as soon as I found another job and criticized the handling of my 2015 complaint. I expected them to just let me move on quietly. No, even that was asking too much. The next day, after finishing a task, I checked my email to see Brian had terminated me suddenly with no severance or transition assistance, and certainly no references. 

       This brings me to the reason why I made this website. Before getting there, let me summarize what happened: I told Brian Boyle that I didn't want to work with someone who made an anti-Muslim comment, and in response he said he'd fire me. After learning about Mr. Boyle's background, I complained to the Director of Human Resources, Stacie Straw, their diversity manager, Mary Ellen Connerty, and their diversity partner, Walter Dellinger, a man who publicly claims to be of ethics. Their response was to move me directly under Brian, and let him and his team make my life difficult for a year until I quit. Well that was easy. Why does any employer worry about discrimination law? If someone complains, just fire them, and if they try to assert their legal rights, mess with them until they quit.

       Actually, it might not be that easy outside of O'Melveny. You see, one reason O'Melveny is able to respond to complaints in the manner above, is that they force employees to sign away their rights. To work at O'Melveny, you must sign this document (pp. one, two, three, four, five). It states that victims of "discrimination or sexual harassment" cannot go to court, and they cannot talk about what happened. They have to use O'Melveny's confidential dispute resolution process -- a process that gets you the treatment above. Three courts, including the Ninth Circuit, have called this document "unconscionable" (cases one, two and three) -- but O'Melveny still forces its employees to sign it. I think the main reason they use it is the confidentiality clause. Victim silence is key.

       I hope this site helps protect others.

       Thank you for granting me the dignity of reading my post, and God bless. (And if you're wondering, I've felt fine, wonderful even, since leaving.)

       [Addendum: In June of 2018, O'Melveny reportedly stopped forcing employees to sign the mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure document, after a campaign by law students.] 

       [Second addendum: In July of 2018, Corporate Counsel reported that the aforementioned Adam Karr did a sham investigation of sexual abuse at Lions Gate.]

o'melveny & myers
The following is a public list of O'Melveny & Myers's attorneys and managers provided in the hopes that if they discriminate against you (or are themselves discriminated against) -- this site is found and read before anyone hurts themselves by complaining to the diversity group or human resources. Billy Abbott, Adam Ackerman, Sloane Ackerman, Enoch Ajayi, Timur Akman-Duffy, Brooke Alger, L. Nicole Allan, Tad Allan, David Almeling, Talia Alsalam, Peter Alter, Brandon Amash, Eric Amdursky, Nima Amini, Eric Andalman, Alexander Anderson, Brian Anderson, Michael Antalics, Vicken Antounian, antitrust, Damilola Arowolaju, Nicole Argentieri, Britny Arianpour, Elizabeth Arias, Seth Aronson, Laura Aronsson, Danny Ashby, Ethan Asofsky, Thasos Athens, Emily Atwater, Lindsay Hersh Autz, Lauren Averill, Annie Avery, Allison Bader, Seth Baglin, Caitlin Bair, bankruptcy, Alan Bao, Jeffrey Barker, Shannon Barrett, Rob Barthelmess, George Bashour, Jeff Baxter, Tom Baxter, Jenn Beard, Will Becker, David Beddow, Andrew Bednark, Jacob Beiswenger, Stevan Bennett, Brad Berg, Brian Berliner, Kurt Berney, Nicole Billington, Jan Birtwell, Alicja Biskupska-Haas, Tyler Bittner, Hope Blain, K. Lee Blalack II, Robert Blashek, Andrew Bledsoe, Craig Bloom, Elizabeth Bock, Christopher Todd Boes, T. Hale Boggs, Julia Bonnell, annual bonus, winter bonus, Daniel Bookin, Alexandra Bornstein, Caitlin Boucher, Chris Bowman, Jim Bowman, Brian Boyle, Ben Bradshaw, Stephanie Bradshaw, Jessica Brent, Drew Breuder, Denis Brock, Steve Brody, Patrick Brophy, Daniel Brovman, Mary Patrice Brown, Kurt Brown, Brussels, Greyson Bryan, Julian Buff, William Buffaloe, Sharon Bunzel, Christopher Burke, omm, Allen Burton, Ariana Bushweller, Damarr Butler, Kyla Butler, Brad Butwin, managing partner, Courtney Byrd, James Byrd, Joanna Calabrese, omm, Natalie Camastra, Kate Camp, Eamonn Campbell, Daniel Cantor, capital markets, Jen Cardelús, O'Melveny careers, David Cartwright, Lauren Casale, Christopher Cash, Melissa Cassel, Gabe Castillo Laughton, Cailey Cavanaugh, Riccardo Celli, Century City, chambers, Winnie Chan, Winston Chang, Hannah Chanoine, Kelsey Chandrasoma, Justin Chapa, omm, Martin Checov, Penny Chen, Alexander Chester, Lillian Cheung, Jae Wan Chi, Junaid Chida, Apalla Chopra, Joshua Chow, 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