Latham's chair resigns and retires after disclosing 'communications of a sexual nature'

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Bill Voge via Latham & Watkins website.

Updated: Latham & Watkins chair and managing partner Bill Voge is resigning his post immediately and retiring, according to a statement from the firm’s executive committee.

The statement says Voge tendered his resignation after voluntary disclosures regarding “the exchange of communications of a sexual nature with a woman whom he has never met in person and who had no connection to the firm.”

Voge then “engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, the executive committee concluded was not befitting the leader of the firm,” the statement said. The firm accepted Voge’s resignation, “determining that these lapses in personal judgment made continued service as chair untenable.”

Voge’s conduct didn’t involve the firm, its clients or firm personnel, the statement said.

Law360 and the American Lawyer have reports. Law360 said it had been investigating claims of improper conduct by Voge since the beginning of last week. According to Law360, Voge “engaged in a pattern of reckless behavior starting with sexually explicit messages sent to a woman he approached on behalf of a Christian men’s group and culminating in threats to her husband to have her thrown in jail.”

Voge’s interactions with the woman began when he approached her on behalf of the New Canaan Society and offered to help her engage in “Christian reconciliation” with a group member, the Law360 article reports. Voge was a board member with the group, which consists of men who want to “support each other to be better husbands, fathers—and better men,” according to its website.

The relationship included sexts, but the woman objected when Voge asked her to come to his hotel room. She later complained to Voge’s lawyer, his assistant, Latham partners and Voge’s family. In many of her communications, she included the explicit text messages.

The woman also contacted two lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis, telling them she wanted to find a lawyer who wouldn’t be intimidated by Voge.

Voge’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, told Law360 the woman tried to publicly humiliate Voge in a smear campaign, and the woman was engaging in cyber harassment. He sent the woman a cease-and-desist letter on Nov. 30 that said Voge was suffering emotional distress from the woman’s actions.

Voge also sent a series of text messages to the woman’s husband in late January. Sometimes he was apologetic, but he also said the woman would go to jail for her texts and emails. Law360 reviewed the messages.

“It is not threats about jail. She will be in jail!!!” Voge wrote.

Voge released a statement saying he was stepping down “with great sorrow.”

“I made a personal mistake for which I bear considerable fault and humiliation,” he said. “I deeply regret my lapse of judgment and I am sorry for the distress and embarrassment I have caused my family, friends, and colleagues.

“My conduct falls well below the personal and professional standards I have tried to uphold throughout my entire career. My disappointment in myself is all the more acute because this lapse does not represent who I am and what I believe, and because I have let down our firm and its people, all of whom I so deeply cherish and respect.”

Voge was elected global chairman and managing partner of Latham in 2014, the New York Times reported at the time. He took over the post the next year. It was the first change of leadership at the law firm in 20 years.

Voge joined Latham in 1983 and became a partner in 1991.

His duties will be handled in the interim by the firm’s current vice chairs, Ora Fisher and Richard Trobman.

Updated on March 21 to add information from Law360 and to report that Voge took over leadership at Latham the year after his election.

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