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October 13, 2010 12:43 PM

More Troubles for Manatt Phelps

Posted by Brian Baxter

Tuesday was a tough day for Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Not only did the firm agree to pay more than half a million dollars to resolve allegations that it improperly brokered New York pension fund investments, but the Jamaican government also announced it was establishing a commission to investigate how Manatt was hired for a controversial lobbying assignment.

New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that Manatt had agreed to pay a $550,000 fine and to submit to a five-year ban on appearing before any New York pension funds. The settlement is part of a larger probe by Cuomo's office into corruption involving state pension funds. 

According to sibling publication the New York Law Journal, Cuomo's investigation found that as far back as 2003 Manatt had sought to help financial firms obtain investments from pension funds in New York, California, and elsewhere. The problem? The Manatt lawyers lacked the proper licenses to act as placement agents or securities brokers, according to the AG.

At the center of the investigation was an unnamed Albany-based partner who "engaged in the practice of law and government relations, including lobbying," reports the NYLJ, citing court documents. The NYLJ reports that the partner is John Faso, a former New York State assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate, according to Faso's lawyer, Steptoe & Johnson's Evan Barr. (The Albany Times-Union has more on Faso.)

Manatt, which was represented by Nicolas Bourtin of Sullivan & Cromwell, said in a statement that the firm "is pleased to put this matter behind us." A spokeswoman for the firm told the NYLJ that the New York pension fund ban would "have no effect on the firm's financial health."

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a scandal over Manatt's purported lobbying role in the controversial extradition from Jamaica to the U.S. of an alleged drug lord continued to dog the firm. According to The Associated Press, the Jamaican government announced that it would establish a commission of inquiry to look into the extradition and how the firm was hired. (Click here for previous coverage of Manatt's Jamaica work.)

Prime Minister Bruce Golding told Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that the composition of the commission and the terms of its scope would be soon be made public. The news was welcomed by opposition politicians, who had urged Golding to create the investigative body to probe the firm's work on behalf of the Jamaican government.

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