New York prosecutors probe law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 27, 2012 3:29 PM
New York prosecutors probe law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf

By Karen Freifeld and Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York prosecutors are looking into possible financial mismanagement Dewey & LeBoeuf after lawyers at the law firm requested an investigation, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Dewey & LeBoeuf, a major U.S. law firm, has lost some 70 of its 300 partners since the beginning of the year. The defections, coupled with debt, have left the firm struggling to stay afloat.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office is investigating whether Dewey leadership made misleading statements about payments due to partners, according to one person who did not want to be identified because the probe is not public.

Another person, who also did not want to be identified, said lawyers from the firm had asked Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to examine "financial irregularities" at the firm.

Both sources said the investigation is in preliminary stages.

Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, declined comment.

Martin Bienenstock, a member of the firm's five-person executive committee, declined to comment. Representatives of Dewey did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The request for an investigation was first reported on Friday by Law360, a specialized news service for lawyers.

It comes just days before Dewey faces a deadline to renegotiate the terms of a $100 million line of credit. The deadline was revealed earlier this week by another source familiar with Dewey's troubles.

The firm owes roughly $75 million to a bank group led by JPMorgan Chase that also includes Citi Private Bank, Bank of America Corp and HSBC Holdings PLC.

Dewey has retained a bankruptcy attorney to consider restructuring options. One possibility is a prepackaged bankruptcy that would involve merging with another firm. Greenberg Traurig LLP has said it had "preliminary discussions" related to Dewey but has not elaborated.

Last year, Dewey hired a number of high-profile, highly compensated attorneys but has been unable to pay many of its long-tenured partners full compensation in recent months, according to two partners who have left.

(Additional reporting by Nick Brown and Nate Raymond; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)