Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice, by David Enrich

My father-in-law, a senior Eisenhower-era Justice Department official, complained four decades ago that business values ​​that harm the practice of law would destroy America. This is because lawyers make and interpret the rules. George S. Leonard often said, “We are educated professionals with duties to society and the rule of law, not businessmen abroad to make money.”

I never appreciated how true it was until I read David Enrich’s interesting new book, Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice.

Enrich, Business Investigations Editor at The New York TimesAnd the Take a deep and disturbing look at one law firm, Jones Day, which spawned giants BakerHostetler and Squire Patton Boggs. Other giant law firms are emerging in full swing. The author shows how partner profits and political power easily overwhelm legal ethics and even basic ethics at the expense of fairness, equity, and justice.

In this compelling, compelling novel, Enrich recounts how Jones Day, a local Cleveland corporation that represented John D. Rockefeller’s burgeoning petroleum monopoly in the 19th century, and pioneered the rise of national and then global legal forces capable of crushing deserving plaintiffs under mountains grew. of court filings.

Until half a century ago, Jones Day partners turned down some unsavory business clients. In the 1960s, they agreed to absorb another law firm because “these gentlemen were honest, have integrity and respected the law as a profession, not just a company.” In 1973, Jones Day, out of concern for his reputation, refused to represent Richard Nixon while he was fighting to keep the Watergate tapes secret.

Things began to change in 1974. Enrich traces the rise of giant law firms to a small ad in a newspaper in Arizona by two reform-minded lawyers who provide low-cost legal services. This ad and a second case prompted the US Supreme Court to allow attorneys to advertise to clients with a fixed-price ban. But more than consumer benefits, the Supreme Court ruling created an unintended path to wealth for those who saw in law an act of multiplying profits.

In anecdotes and revealing court filings, Enrich shows how Jones Day has dealt with unsavory customers like tobacco companies because it paid millions in merchants to perpetuate the sale of their killer products. He points out that the right to a lawyer applies to criminal matters, but Jones Day has adequately applied it to commercial clients.

Four decades ago, Charles Keating petitioned the Lincoln Sevens & Loan, “Their goal was that Jones Day could scan Lincoln’s books” before government audits. Jones Day also hired regulators who helped Keating and him fend off law enforcement. It also aided and abetted fraud by concealing and dating documents and forging signatures of corporate directors. Jones Day paid massive civil settlements but was never charged with a criminal offense.

Investors ultimately lost $1 billion, and taxpayers spent three times that amount. Keating, whose scams date back to the 1950s, eventually went to prison.

Not everyone on Jones Day got along with chasing fees. Those who spoke loudly were constantly told to ‘stop whining’. Those most outspoken about the breakdown of moral standards were brought to the door, enriched by reports, and named after. In this rotten atmosphere some lawyers Pay 4000 hours a year. That’s 11 hours a day, every day. Jones Day had no qualms about helping clients such as soccer team owner Art Model raise hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, a hidden form of luxury for the wealthy, provided they pay exorbitant legal fees.

For all his admirable research, Enrich ignores some of the revealing aspects of the stories he tells. He doesn’t care about William K. Black, the banking regulator who discovered what Keating and his ilk were about to do, taught investigators and prosecutors how to file thousands of cases, and became a pariah in legal circles as he stood for integrity and wrote. “The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Officials and Politicians Robbed the S&L Industry.”

Enrich makes a compelling argument that Jones Day has turned “year after year” into an ideological force. It paid $400,000 signing bonuses to recruit more Supreme Court clerks than any other big company; 70 percent of them worked under conservative judges such as Antonin Scalia — formerly an attorney at Jones Day — an investment in attracting clients while shaping a right-wing pro-business future.

The company hit the jackpot with current and future clients when it signed with Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Donald McGahn, a partner at Jones Day, became a White House counsel on the promise that he would pick Trump’s federal court nominees. Another partner became attorney general, controlling which cases the Justice Department appealed and how they were abandoned.

Like other large companies, Jones Day sends senior attorneys on promotional tours to attract clients when departments change; She has meticulously bragged that the Trump administration has been salted with its past and future partners, a valuable sales tool.

Jones Day, in and out of government, has played a key role in fulfilling Trump’s 2016 campaign promise Reducing the effectiveness of the federal government in regulating corporate behavior. Enrich wrote that the firm’s partners “helped reshape a variety of federal agencies” and helped turn the Department of Justice into a “political attaché to the White House.” The author shows that Jones Day had more power within the government during Trump’s tenure than any other outside organization in any administration – ensuring more billable hours.

Enrich weaves a dizzying set of facts into a powerful and important picture of how mega-law firms distort justice: a system in which you get as much legal protection as you can afford for the rich and the big corporations they control over the people at fault.

Like many books with a large cast of characters, this book would have benefited from portraits of key players, or at least a page of mini-biographies to refresh readers’ memories. Readers also deserve concluding comments with more than the sparse detail that Enrich provides.

Ithra quotes a law professor who says lawyers should ask themselves two questions. Am I proud of the work I do? Am I the person I want to be? Imagine how the lawyers at Jones Day and other major companies would respond, given the soul-eating atmosphere in which they work.

Enrich ends with a telling anecdote about Jones Day representing Trump and Co. after the failed coup of January 6, 2021. The descendant of one of the founders of Jones Day, fearing that the company is “playing Russian roulette with American democracy”, angrily imagines that if her grandfather were still around, ” He would have said they are too old to get along with their daughters.”

She was so angry that she could not complete her thought, so I will: if law becomes just another business, our democracy and our freedoms will not last, because the richest and worst criminals will get away with cheating, polluting, and theft – so that lawyers and courts will remember that law is a respectable profession.

Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and Corruption of Justice

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