Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Defecting Law Partner Given Parting Shot in Duel of Press Releases
By DON PARRET, Staff Writer
A partner’s jump from the East Coast office of one California-based firm to another sparked an apparently unprecedented dual of press releases and has sent minor shock waves through the legal community on both sides of the nation.
Frode Jensen III left the Stamford, Conn., office of Pillsbury Winthrop for Latham & Watkins earlier this month, and Latham heralded the move with a press release.
But Pillsbury quickly shot back.
“Jensen’s departure comes on the heels of sexual harassment allegations ... and a significant decline in his productivity,” Pillsbury chairwoman Mary Cranston said in a press release, which went on to say that Jensen had been “largely absent” from his Stamford office this year.
“Pillsbury Winthrop previously had intended not to comment on Mr. Jensen’s departure in order to downplay the event,” it said.
The release then quoted Cranston, who works in the firm’s San Francisco office, saying: “Our firm values respect and integrity above all else. We investigated the harassment claims, concluded that there was a reasonable likelihood that harassment had occurred and responded with a variety of measures. It is always sad to lose a friend and colleague to another firm, however, under the circumstances of the past year, Mr. Jensen’s move is probably in the best interest of all concerned, and we wish him well with his new firm.”
Cranston said that “Latham & Watkins did not contact anyone in Pillsbury Winthrop’s management in connection with a reference check for Mr. Jensen.”
Crystal Rockwood, a spokeswoman for Pillsbury, said its press release was sent to media outlets because “the firm felt a need to correct the record.”
Pillsbury’s press release surprised Tower Snow Jr., an attorney who found himself in a similar situation.
Snow was ousted earlier this year from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison of San Francisco, the firm where he served as chairman. Snow joined London law firm Clifford Chance as managing partner of its new San Francisco office and nabbed several Brobeck lawyers.
After Snow left, Brobeck issued the following statement: “With their action to expel Mr. Snow, the partners of the firm spoke with a clear, strong and unified voice about the acceptable standards of trust, loyalty and ethics which Brobeck expects of its partners.”
Snow said he has never heard of a move such as Pillsbury’s.
“I think the Pillsbury release is remarkable,” Snow said. “I think the interesting question is, ‘What was the objective?”
Jensen, 52, headed Pillsbury’s mergers and acquisitions group and was described by Latham in its press release as a “prominent corporate lawyer.”
Latham spokeswoman Pearl Piatt declined comment on the matter yesterday but said the matter is ongoing.
Jensen did not return calls yesterday seeking comment on the allegations and dispute.
Jensen practiced for 14 years at Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts, a New York firm that merged with San Francisco-based Pillsbury Madison & Sutro in 2001.
Before joining Winthrop Stimson, Jensen practiced at Cummings & Lockwood in Stamford and was an associate at New York-based Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Jensen, the third senior partner that Latham poached from Pillsbury in recent months, was scheduled to start work at Latham’s New York office in October.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company