Law Firms

Dentons and former partner trade forgery and self-dealing allegations in litigation over firing

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Dentons and former corporate partner Jinshu “John” Zhang are both alleging misconduct in litigation over Zhang’s firing and a dispute over contingency fees.

The litigation, which arises from the firm’s representation of a client in China, includes allegation of forgery and self-dealing, report Law.com, Reuters and Law360.

Zhang filed a suit last month in California state court alleging Dentons ousted him for reporting that the law firm forged a document in an attempt to transfer tens of millions of dollars from a Chinese client, according to a court filing.

Zhang says he demanded the firing of firm CEO Michael McNamara, but the firm fired Zhang instead, advancing “made-up or make-weight arguments” to justify the ouster.

Dentons said in a statement that the forgery allegation is an “utter fabrication” and told a different story in a notice removing the suit to federal court in Los Angeles.

Dentons says it was entitled to collect attorney fees from the client in China after a multimillion-dollar settlement of its case. But Zhang, who represented the client, demanded that Dentons guarantee him 85% of the contingency award, the removal notice says. Dentons refused.

“Zhang went around Dentons to the client, with whom Zhang negotiated for Zhang to personally receive the lion’s share of the contingency fee award,” Dentons’ removal notice alleged.

“Zhang also began secretly exfiltrating sensitive and confidential information from Dentons, including client confidential information and sensitive personal information of nonparty individuals.

“When Dentons refused to permit Zhang to engage in improper self-dealing, Zhang responded with slanderous and false allegations against Dentons’ leadership.”

Dentons fired Zhang on May 5 and sought arbitration for an alleged breach of the partnership agreement.

Zhang filed suit during the arbitration. “With Zhang’s clients gone, his reputation destroyed, his compensation eliminated, and his career in shambles, Zhang now brings this action against defendants for statutory and common law wrongful termination, racial discrimination, international infliction of emotional distress, and declaratory relief, to hold them accountable for their horrendous and cruel misdeeds,” he says in a legal filing.

Dentons counters in its removal notice that Zhang’s allegations “are meritless, false and ultimately slanderous.” Its spokesperson told legal publications that Zhang’s allegations “are as outrageous as they are untrue.”

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