Legal Ethics

Ethics complaint accuses former GE lawyer of disclosing client secrets

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An ethics complaint filed in Washington, D.C., accuses a former in-house lawyer for General Electric of disclosing confidential company information after she was fired.

The complaint (PDF) against lawyer M. Adriana Koeck alleges she copied her computer hard drive and disclosed confidential information to the media and to federal agencies, the National Law Journal reports. Two others are accused of misconduct for aiding Koeck, the story says—her former lawyer, Lynne Bernabei of Washington, D.C., and former Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, Koeck’s former law professor.

Koeck claims her January 2007 firing was retaliation for alleging to a superior that the company was improperly helping some customers in Brazil avoid value added taxes by misrepresenting the regions to which goods were being shipped. The company says Koeck was fired for poor performance.

Koeck had signed a confidentiality agreement. She is accused of giving information about the tax issue to a federal prosecutor and to a journalist with Blakey’s help, and of giving information to the Securities and Exchange Commission with the help of Blakey and Bernabei, the story says. Records indicate the prosecutor didn’t file any charges relating to the tax issue, the NLJ says.

The ethics complaint says Koeck “knowingly disclosed client confidences and/or secrets, in that she used client confidences/and or secrets to the disadvantage of GE, and in that she used GE confidences and/or secrets to her own advantage.”

In a 2008 lawsuit, GE sought a court order for Koeck to return the records and to stop disclosing confidential information. Koeck claimed retaliation in response, the NLJ says. The suit settled in January 2009.

The National Law Journal was unable to reach Koeck for comment. Bernabei told the publication she is convinced her conduct “met all appropriate standards,” while Blakey said he “did nothing wrong and I will spend every last dime that I have vindicating my good name.”

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