Partner who accused DLA Piper rainmaker is placed on leave; her lawyer sees 'a despicable smear campaign'
A DLA Piper junior partner who accused a rainmaking partner of repeatedly pursuing and groping her has been placed on paid administrative leave amid an investigation into her own conduct, the law firm said in a press release.
Vanina Guerrero was placed on administrative leave shortly after the firm disclosed that the accused rainmaking partner, Louis Lehot, left the firm.
The press release referred to Guerrero as Vanina de Verneuil and said she was placed on paid administrative leave after the firm began investigating her claims and learned of serious allegations about her own conduct.
“Serious issues were brought to the firm’s attention regarding Ms. de Verneuil’s conduct towards and involving others at the firm,” the press release said. “It has been determined that these issues, which are unrelated to Ms. de Verneuil’s claims, require a separate investigation. Given the nature of these serious claims, as well as Ms. de Verneuil’s refusal to cooperate regarding the allegations against her, the firm has determined that the best course of action at this time is to place Ms. de Verneuil on paid administrative leave.”
Guerrero’s lawyer, Wigdor partner Jeanne Christensen, responded with a statement calling DLA Piper’s press release “a despicable smear campaign against a female victim of sexual assault.”
Christensen also released DLA Piper’s letter informing Guerrero of its decision. The letter said during its investigation of Lehot, “another individual at the firm alleged that you engaged in inappropriate behavior toward, and harassed, that individual.” The letter said DLA Piper “has retained Arnold & Porter to investigate the allegations” against Guerrero.
Christensen said neither Wigdor nor Guerrero has any knowledge or information about any harassment by Guerrero. DLA Piper’s smear “is barbaric and never before seen by a global law firm,” Christensen said in the statement.
DLA Piper had announced Lehot’s departure in an Oct. 11 statement sent to its lawyers and staff, according to previous reports by Law.com and Bloomberg. Both publications obtained copies of the statement regarding Lehot.
The Lehot statement said the firm had concluded “for various reasons” that it was in the best interests of the firm for Lehot to leave, even though Guerrero’s “allegations have not been substantiated by the investigation to date.”
Guerrero had made her allegations against Lehot in an open letter to the firm’s co-chairmen and a supplemental letter to a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Guerrero alleged that, after Lehot recruited her to the firm, he groped or kissed her on four occasions. The assaults occurred on business trips and at a party at Lehot’s home, she alleged.
Guerrero also said Lehot retaliated against her when she rejected him. The retaliation allegedly included “obstinate silence,” exclusion from work-related matters, accusations of underperformance, and a recommendation against a bonus.
Guerrero also alleged that Lehot “regularly throws temper tantrums in and out of the office,” and no one at the law firm had reined him in.
Guerrero said Lehot’s conduct caused her to have panic attacks and other medical conditions that sent her to the emergency room several times.