Free speech and its consequences

A senior Pentagon official has lost his job over comments criticizing the law firms which have represented Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Washington Post reports:
Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, called it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms represented Guantanamo Bay detainees free of charge and said they would likely suffer financially after their corporate clients learned of the work.

"I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms," Stimson said in a Jan. 11 interview on Federal News Radio.

The legal community was outraged by his comments. Stimson also suggested that some lawyers were being untruthful about doing the work free of charge and instead were "receiving moneys from who-knows-where."
Lawyers tend to be quite sensitive about the notion that every defendant has a right to representation and they should be able to freely give their services to the lowest of the low. But the way a law firm chooses to allocate its time among potential charity clients does tell us something of its values.

I find it interesting that Stimson lost his job for expressing his opinion. Of course, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. For lawyers as for the rest of us.

Speaking of consequences, another occupation with a high duty to its clients is the investment industry. Morgan Stanley is a giant in that field, with a huge business in wealth management, where it incurs a fiduciary duty to represent the interests of its clients.

One of Morgan Stanley's fund managers, Hassam Elmasry represents owners of roughly 7.6% of the New York Times Company's Class A shareholders. Concerned about the plunging fortunes of this investment, Elmasry has been campaigning to persuade the company to dump its two-class shareholding system which enables the Sulzberger family to elect a majority of directors despite owning just about 10% of the company's equity.

Yesterday came news via Fortune Magazine that the Sulzberger family is retaliating, and removing from Morgan Stanley's custody about $640 million of family wealth. For this service, M-S has been receiving a small fee. The action is rather symbolic more than substantive, at least on any scale meaningful to Morgan Stanley. But it does seem to represent removing business from a firm whose actions are offensive to the client. This is what Mr. Stimson suggested some legal clients might, and for which he apparently lost his job.

So far as I know, the New York Times has not yet editorialized about Stimson or the issue of law firms losing business over their pro bono work. But I would be willing it would argue that law firms should be free to represent the scum of the earth without clients retaliating.

Hat tips: Jack Kemp, Ed Lasky
A senior Pentagon official has lost his job over comments criticizing the law firms which have represented Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Washington Post reports:
Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, called it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms represented Guantanamo Bay detainees free of charge and said they would likely suffer financially after their corporate clients learned of the work.

"I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms," Stimson said in a Jan. 11 interview on Federal News Radio.

The legal community was outraged by his comments. Stimson also suggested that some lawyers were being untruthful about doing the work free of charge and instead were "receiving moneys from who-knows-where."
Lawyers tend to be quite sensitive about the notion that every defendant has a right to representation and they should be able to freely give their services to the lowest of the low. But the way a law firm chooses to allocate its time among potential charity clients does tell us something of its values.

I find it interesting that Stimson lost his job for expressing his opinion. Of course, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. For lawyers as for the rest of us.

Speaking of consequences, another occupation with a high duty to its clients is the investment industry. Morgan Stanley is a giant in that field, with a huge business in wealth management, where it incurs a fiduciary duty to represent the interests of its clients.

One of Morgan Stanley's fund managers, Hassam Elmasry represents owners of roughly 7.6% of the New York Times Company's Class A shareholders. Concerned about the plunging fortunes of this investment, Elmasry has been campaigning to persuade the company to dump its two-class shareholding system which enables the Sulzberger family to elect a majority of directors despite owning just about 10% of the company's equity.

Yesterday came news via Fortune Magazine that the Sulzberger family is retaliating, and removing from Morgan Stanley's custody about $640 million of family wealth. For this service, M-S has been receiving a small fee. The action is rather symbolic more than substantive, at least on any scale meaningful to Morgan Stanley. But it does seem to represent removing business from a firm whose actions are offensive to the client. This is what Mr. Stimson suggested some legal clients might, and for which he apparently lost his job.

So far as I know, the New York Times has not yet editorialized about Stimson or the issue of law firms losing business over their pro bono work. But I would be willing it would argue that law firms should be free to represent the scum of the earth without clients retaliating.

Hat tips: Jack Kemp, Ed Lasky