Douchebag U.S. Lawmakers Go After DLA Piper for ZTE Representation

September 14, 2012

Be prepared for some very strong language. This incident makes me want to vomit.

DLA Piper, a global law firm noted for high-profile attorneys, should rethink its work for China’s ZTE Corp, two Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged.

Representatives Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Frank Wolf of Virginia, staunch critics of China’s human-rights record, sent the request to DLA Piper on Thursday.

[ . . . ]

The letter faulted DLA Piper for helping ZTE “as it attempts to circumvent U.S. government concerns” to gain a larger share of the U.S. market.

“By publicly representing and advising the ZTE Corporation, your firm is indicating it values the retainer of one contract over the legitimate cyber security and supply chain concerns of the United States government,” the lawmakers wrote. (Reuters)

I need to be careful here. I already have high blood pressure, and this shit ain’t helping, I can tell you.

{Deep breath} OK, the issue is simply this: you have a well respected law firm that represented a foreign telecom company with respect to commercial matters in the United States. Now members of the U.S. House of Representatives are criticizing that firm for DOING ITS FUCKING JOB.

Pardon me. Didn’t mean to shout.

Was ZTE on some sort of “Do Not Represent” List? Not that I’m aware of. Are U.S. lawyers not allowed to represent Chinese clients for some reason? Not that I’m aware of, and that certainly is something I would know about.

What exactly does “circumvent U.S. government concerns” mean? Well, a House hearing was held yesterday concerning the national security issues swirling around Chinese telecom giant Huawei and, to a lesser extent, ZTE. Both companies have run into trouble in the past with specific transactions, some of which have been questioned and/or torpedoed by folks on Capitol Hill.

This sort of scrutiny, with some politicos taking a favorable stance on these deals, and others looking to nix them, is absolutely an adversarial process. And even if you disagreed with that statement, you certainly wouldn’t disagree that Congressional testimony is often a game of hardball, with one side looking to pump up the speaker, the other side wishing to shred their credibility, and everyone trying to get on television.

Call me crazy, but a foreign company heading into that sort of environment might wish to consider legal counsel.

The Reuters writeup of this nonsense also suggests that allegations against ZTE concerning business with Iran is somehow relevant to DLA Piper’s representation. Sorry, that’s also a bucket full of half-congealed bullshit, unless someone has evidence that DLA lawyers advised ZTE on how to circumvent U.S. law. No? Then shut the hell up about the propriety of their legal services to a legitimate client. And if it turns out that the FBI is indeed going after ZTE on the Iran issue, doesn’t that suggest “lawyering up” is a damn good idea?

Frank Wolf, and his fellow House member whom I’ve never heard of before, is trying to smear a law firm with the sins of its clients, some of which have yet to be substantiated. Fuck you, Frank Wolf. (Had to be said.) You’re calling into question America’s entire legal system, you prick.

Currently the American Civil Liberties Union is representing the Ku Klux Klan against the State of Georgia in a freedom of speech case. That’s the American legal system at its best. God knows what the country would look like if reactionaries like Frank Wolf were in charge.

Perhaps we should all ignore this letter. I’m sure DLA Piper is not going to raise its profile, and potentially burn some bridges, by responding to this wingnuttery publicly. And after all, Frank Wolf is an old China bashing hack, a miserable bastard who gets lots of cash from the defense industry, which benefits directly the more the U.S. is afraid of China. Of his top five campaign contributors, four are defense contractors and one, Orbital Sciences Corp, makes missile and satellite technology. You think these guys don’t benefit when good old Frank Wolf gins up China controversies?

Serial killers are allowed access to lawyers. Companies that dump toxic waste have legions of attorneys. Terrorists are represented . . . well, mostly the U.S. likes to drop bombs on those guys with no due process. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

But a foreign corporation from a country that does a huge amount of business with the U.S.? No soup lawyer for you! I wonder if Frank Wolf is aware that DLA Piper actually has two separate, rather sizable, offices in Mainland China, out of which they sometimes {gasp} offer legal advice to Chinese clients?

String up the traitorous bastards!

(Disclosure: I used to work for DLA Piper.)

14 thoughts on “Douchebag U.S. Lawmakers Go After DLA Piper for ZTE Representation

  1. David Fieldman

    Gasp! Stan…your language…I’m shocked, shocked, shocked! Especially with Rosh Hashanna around the corner. Don’t let your blood pressure rise any longer. You’re absolutely right, Who are these ‘elected’ cretins from America to even dare raise these issues?

  2. bystander

    yeah, this one really is pretty shocking. when I first read the story I sorta didn’t believe it was really true. Isn’t it somehow *illegal* to prevent someone from obtaining counsel when they’re facing criminal charges (that is, isn’t that the flipside of their right to an attorney?) I know the congressional investigation doesn’t exactly rise to the level of a criminal charge, but I never heard of anyone going before a hostile congressional panel without lawyers at their side. when the financial community guys get called up their lawyers are practically glued to their clients’ ears.

  3. ShakeySphere

    All:
    God save your majesty!

    Cade:
    I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
    and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
    that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

    Dick:
    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

    Cade:
    Nay, that I mean to do.

    Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

    1. Stan Post author

      Unfortunately, that line seems to have stuck quite firmly in our cultural gullets. For that reason alone, I’d reclassify that play as one of the tragedies.

  4. Anon

    “God knows what the country would look like if reactionaries like Frank Wolf were in charge.”

    China?

    When was the last time you said, “Fuck you, Zhou Yongkang!”?

    1. Stan Post author

      Ah, the old equivalency argument. Criticizing the U.S. doesn’t not mean that I believe the Chinese system is any better on this or any other issue. I thought that went without saying, but apparently not. I suppose next I’ll be told to renounce my citizenship?

      I should hope that we expect more, in terms of legal rights, from U.S. Congressmen than we do from Zhou Yongkang and the Chinese security apparatus.

  5. Hua Qiao

    While i totally support the right of any firm to command the best representation, i also cringe that the legal community gets a free pass when it comes to political correctness. How many times have you and others railed on the banking industry, big oil, and other industries that are on the wrong side of liberal politics. Those firms are criticized for operating within the rules congress has set up and yet they are villified as fat cats.

    As much as i abhor Congressional members using their office to intimidate law firms for political ends, i don’t think it is all that much different than elected officials going after lawful businesses.

    You may hide behind the cloak of John Adams defending the Hay Market shooters or Darrow defending various infamous defendants. But your outrage rings a bit hollow to me.

    In essence, putting aside whether ZTE is an unsavory firm or not, your point is It’s ok to beat the crap out of the principals but shame on you for painting the lawyers with the same brush.

    1. Stan Post author

      Two points in response. First, I don’t think it’s ok to beat the crap out of principals. In fact, I’ve written many, many times about how companies who follow the law but do things we don’t like should not be vilified for simply acting like the for-profit entities that they are. I usually go after the government for making the rules in the first place. Have I gone after some companies for bad acts in the past? Probably, but it’s almost always under suspicion that they broke the law, or perhaps a criticism of poor PR or something similar.

      Second, and much more important, yes lawyers are different. I was not defending lawyers per se. Actually, I don’t really care about protecting lawyers, who by and large (at least in the U.S.) need to be regulated more, not less. Like doctors, self-regulation is a disaster, and many firms get away with shocking malpractice, file frivolous suits, etc. with little or no punishment. Lawyers are not above the law or in need of special treatment.

      That being said, what is important to everyone is access to legal counsel. Wolf’s comments are meant to have a chilling effect, which would mean that foreign companies like ZTE might find it more difficult in the future to obtain good legal counsel. This is the problem, the effect on the client, not the lawyer or law firm.

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the U.S. would be better off if some individuals or clients were unable to find legal representation because lawyers were afraid of government reprisal.

      1. D

        After living, working, and investing in China for many years, I can think of no better political and legal system than the American system. The US legal system is not perfect, but the ideal that EVERYONE is provided faithful representation and can feel somewhat safe that they will have a fair hearing is very very important. In China, the administrative and criminal laws applied to people and businesses are capricious. Lawyers in China too often face intimidation, but lawyers in the US (while we often savage them by calling them lairs, thieves and charlatans) can feel somewhat secure that the ultimate principal of justice outstrips a false sense of “harmony” that really only benefits the powerful people. In China, lawyers are sometimes afraid to represent clients because of reprisals; in the US they fear not.

        The shame about all this is that regardless of whether ZTE wins or loses cases in the US, it will have a much better environment in the US to have its legal case heard. In China, a US or foreign company can not hope for that same type of same fair treatment.

        1. Stan Post author

          No disagreement with most of that, but my post was neither comparative nor a critique of the U.S. system. Rather, it was a calling out of two House members who did something stupid.

      2. Hua Qiao

        Agreed on counsel represetntation being a vital part of a fair system and i abhor governing officials using their bully pulpit to intimidate. But i have to tell you that i was also not unhappy when the firm that represented proview got stiffed.

        1. Stan Post author

          Here’s the thing. Everyone deserves legal counsel. However, if a lawyer is complicit in filing a frivolous or otherwise unkosher lawsuit, or breaks other procedural or ethical rules, then throw the damn book at ‘em. In the case of Proview, in most jurisdictions, they had a pretty untenable argument. But it was Apple that sued them for breach of contract, and therefore they deserved representation in defending that action.

          If it was me, would I have taken on Proview as a client under those circumstances? Perhaps not, but it’s also the right of a lawyer to refuse a case.