Corporate Law

3M Sues DC Law Firm Chief, Says He Ran Defamation Campaign Under Guise of Seeking $30M Settlement


A well-known Washington, D.C., lawyer whose practice combines litigation and media relations work on behalf of clients has been sued by a major corporation for defamation, along with other defendants including his law firm.

3M Company contends in a federal lawsuit (PDF) that Lanny Davis “orchestrated” a “conspiracy” on behalf of parties to litigation then pending in the United Kingdom, in which they allegedly campaigned “to coerce and intimidate 3M into paying defendants tens of millions of dollars under the guise of ‘settling’ ” the suit for some $30 million.

Towards that end, 3M contends, Davis made phone calls from his D.C. office to 3M’s legal counsel, and issued “multiple disparaging and false press releases” from his office about the company and its president, board chairman and chief executive officer, George Buckley.

The campaign, the suit alleges, involved threats of 3M shareholder reprisals, “demonstrations by paid individuals posing as victims of an altogether fabricated public health ‘issue,’ ” and “threatening to deprive 3M of business opportunities and causing the loss of a knighthood that had been promised to Buckley by the Queen of England,” among other claimed conduct.

Using attorney-client privilege as a shield, the suit contends, Davis has a general approach, in his combination law and media relations practice focused on assisting clients in managing a crisis, of “step[ping] outside of the facts and merits of any associated legal disputes, and … concoct[ing] a media strategy aimed at giving his client an advantage in the court of public opinion.”

Underlying the U.K. case at issue in the alleged defamation campaign was a test for the MRSA “superbug” that 3M calls a commercial failure. The company, which is based in Minnesota and incorporated in Delaware, is perhaps best-known for its Scotch-brand tape and sticky Post-it Notes.

In addition to defamation, the suit asserts claims for tortious interference, conspiracy, aiding and abetting and, under United Kingdom law, intimidation and blackmail.

It seeks to recover compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees and obtain injunctive relief including a ban on further interference with Buckley’s potential knighthood. Plus, 3M says in the suit, the company hopes to find out from the District of Columbia lawsuit the full extent of the damage done to the company by the alleged campaign of defamation and “pursue those who aided, abetted, conspired or participated with [the] defendants in any manner relative to their defamatory media campaign.”

The plaintiffs are represented by SNR Denton US and Bickel & Brewer.

Davis and the other defendants are represented by Boies Schiller & Flexner, reports the Am Law Daily, which said the defense lawyers declined to comment.

Davis is a former partner of Patton Boggs; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and, most recently, McDermott Will & Emery, the legal publication notes.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Lanny Davis Is Latest BigLaw Lawyer to Form His Own Firm”

ABAJournal.com: “Lanny Davis Becomes Go-To Lawyer for African Strongmen”

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