The explosive lawsuit between Biglaw firm Proskauer and its former chief operating officer, Jonathan O’Brien, continues to be filled with eye-popping rancor. You’ll recall, the firm alleged in its initial complaint, filed in December, that the now-former COO downloaded 34 gigabytes of internal data to a USB drive before announcing he was leaving the firm to work for a competitor. O’Brien was poised to join Paul Hastings, but that deal blew up when the lawsuit was filed. (The firm fired O’Brien the same day they filed the Southern District of New York complaint.) The complaint also alleged O’Brien attempted to delete emails subject to a litigation hold.
Of course, because this case is nothing if not acrimonious, O’Brien responded by calling the firm’s management “Machiavellian.” He told the court he only downloaded the information necessary to do his job as he traveled abroad at year end. Proskauer responded by calling O’Brien’s explanation for his possession of the documents in question “ludicrous” and “facially absurd.”
Now Proskauer has filed an amended complaint, adding a lot more color to the dispute between the two parties. As reported by Bloomberg Law, the new complaint accuses O’Brien of a scheme to recruit a number of Proskauer executives to Paul Hastings:
Jonathan O’Brien conspired with “key executives,” including Proskauer’s former chief financial officer, Leigh Anne Whyte, in the effort to bring senior officials and staff with them in a move to Paul Hastings, Proskauer said Monday. The new allegations came in an amended complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court.
The firm also accused O’Brien of sharing recruiting information with the “chair of the competing law firm,” a reference to Frank Lopez, the Paul Hastings chair and a Proskauer alum. The two law firms are among the largest in the US, with each eclipsing over $1.2 billion in gross revenue in 2022.
The firm alleges as part of the recruitment plan, O’Brien violated his fiduciary duties to the firm:
O’Brien, while still at Proskauer, repeatedly talked with Lopez, the Paul Hastings chair, about how to get his colleagues on board, according to the amended complaint. He violated his fiduciary duties to Proskauer in those talks, the suit alleges.
O’Brien shared an internal “recruiting initiative” with Lopez, “who then used that information to Proskauer’s detriment,” the firm said.
Proskauer also notes in the amended complaint that, after the first complaint was filed, O’Brien deleted communications.
In a statement, Paul Hastings said the firm “neither solicited nor received any confidential or proprietary information,” and that, “This continues to be another firm’s personnel dispute and we do not comment on other firms’ personnel matters.”
O’Brien’s attorney, Russell Beck, said in a statement the amended complaint was “drafted with an eye towards using the media.”
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.