Latest Legal News: Toyota Whistle-Blower to Give Documents to Congress

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:Congress Wants Former Inside Counsel's "Proof" That Toyota Hid Evidence

The latest chapter in the Toyota (TM) story is company President Akio Toyoda's promise to testify before Congress. But while Toyoda's upcoming appearance on Capitol Hill is garnering the lion's share of attention, an interesting sidebar is being overlooked: the subpoena given to Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota in-house counsel, for all "safety-related" documents in his possession. From 2003 to 2007, Biller oversaw Toyota's nationwide defense efforts against rollover lawsuits. He asserts that during those suits, Toyota failed to turn over key evidence, copies of which Biller now carts around with him. Biller resigned from Toyota in 2007, getting $3.7 million in severance and agreeing to keep his mouth shut. But in 2009, he sued, making his evidence-concealment charges against Toyota, asking for damages and to released from the confidentiality agreement.

Exactly how important these documents are isn't clear. On the one hand, Toyota doesn't want them out there; it has been diligently fighting their release, and to date, winning. On the other hand, a plaintiff's attorney to whom Biller showed his documents -- though perhaps not all his documents -- didn't find them damning at all. So is Biller a disgruntled ex-employee with fantasies that his former employer is evil, or is he a crusading whistle-blower, continuing to fight against all odds to expose Toyota's history of hiding its misdeeds? Perhaps now that Congress has subpoenaed the documents, we'll find out.

Bank of America Reality Show Update

The evidence the Securities and Exchange Commission gave Judge Jed Rakoff solidly supports its contention that Bank of America's (BAC) inside and outside counsel decided disclosing Merrill Lynch's spiraling losses to shareholders wasn't necessary, making New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's more sinister version of events seem unlikely. However the documents did support one Cuomo claim -- that Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis knew about the decision not to disclose the losses before the shareholder vote. So what's Cuomo got up his sleeve? We'll learn later today.

Alcatel Pleads Guilty to Bribing Foreign Officials

As I've noted in previous columns, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been enforced vigorously of late, and now Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) is settling with the Department of Justice in part by having three subsidiaries plead guilty to paying bribes in Costa Rica, Kenya, Taiwan and other unnamed countries. Alcatel will also pay $137 million in criminal and civil penalties.

The Business of Law and Layoffs

Paul, Hastings saw revenue fall 10%, but profits per partner (PPP) stayed nearly flat, and revenue per lawyer (RPL) rose slightly. How did it get a flat PPP and slightly higher RPL if revenue fell that much? By laying off nearly 14% of its attorneys and staff.

O'Melveny & Meyers laid off almost 8% of its total headcount, including 90 lawyers, but that wasn't enough to save its profits per partner or revenue per lawyer. O'Melveny's revenue dropped almost 9%, PPP was down about 4%, and RPL was down 1%

Dechert fared even worse. Despite reducing headcount by almost 12%, including laying off at least 63 attorneys, revenue fell 12.6% and PPP fell 8.6%.
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