THE AM LAW DAILY

SURVEYS AND RANKINGS

MAGAZINE

SPECIAL REPORTS

The Firms

April 8, 2011 10:52 AM

What's the Deal with Cromwell & Goodwin?

Posted by Brian Baxter

C&G Screen Shot

At first glance the home page of the seemingly slick Cromwell & Goodwin Web site--with the Statue of Liberty set against the Manhattan skyline and the tagline "The best legal solution" prominently displayed--certainly looks like the online home of a legitimate law firm. Look a bit deeper, though, and serious questions arise.

In fact, Cromwell & Goodwin appears to be a law firm in name only. No one contacted by The Am Law Daily has ever heard of it. The supposedly three-decades-old firm's Web site, cromwellgoodwin.com, only launched on March 19. And the address listed for the firm's New York headquarters doesn't exist. 

The mystery surrounding the apparently fake firm began last week with the posting of a press release on a free publicity distribution service called PRLog.org about Cromwell & Goodwin's purported involvement in an upcoming conference of M&A advisers where the topic would be telecommunications consolidation projects in emerging markets.

The press release, which has since been removed from PRLog.org but is still available here, appears to be a reconfigured version of a similar notice posted on PRLog a year ago.

The release included contact information for Cromwell & Goodwin and claimed that a representative from the "firm" would be joined on the panel by individuals from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and Clifford Chance. The release included a specific reference to Joachim Fleury, a London-based Clifford Chance M&A partner, as "Global Head of Cromwell & Goodwin, Clifford Chance, one of the world's leading law firms."

But neither Clifford Chance nor Fleury have ever heard of Cromwell & Goodwin, according to a spokesman for the Magic Circle firm, nor were they aware of the conference that the release states is scheduled for April 26-27 at the Sharq Village Hotel Doha in Doha, Qatar.

All of The Am Law Daily's calls to the number listed on Cromwell & Goodwin's Web site to inquire about the conference went straight to voicemail and were never returned.

Next stop: Cromwell & Goodwin's New York office, identified on its Web site as 221 East 18th Street, Suite #1. We discovered that the address, located in Manhattan's residential Gramercy neighborhood, does not exist. A doorman in an apartment building located at 211 East 18th Street told us that there is no 221 East 18th Street.

A search of Internet domain records reveals that Cromwell & Goodwin's Web site was created on March 19. A company based in Westchester, Calif., Namecheap.com, is listed as the administrative contact for the site. A message left with the company was not returned. (A search of the U.S. Copyright Office database also yielded no information about Cromwell & Goodwin, despite the presence of a copyright symbol on its Web site.)

We contacted Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman litigation partner David Keyko, a former chair of the professional responsibility committee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, to get some idea of the consequences for concocting a make-believe law firm. Keyko says that Cromwell & Goodwin does indeed appear to be fictitious. And that, he says, doesn't bode well for whoever created it.

"It's illegal in most jurisdictions, including New York, to pass yourself off as a lawyer or a law firm if you're not," Keyko says. "It's currently a misdemeanor . . . and historically the unauthorized practice of law statutes have been used exactly for this purpose--to go after people passing themselves off as lawyers who are not."

Keyko, who spent some time reviewing the Cromwell & Goodwin Web site at The Am Law Daily's request, noted that the language on the site appears inconsistent in places. For instance, supposed name partner Liberty Goodwin's name is spelled two different ways. And none of the five "lawyers" listed, including so-called managing partner Edward Cromwell, are registered with the New York Bar.

A section of the Web site related to pro bono work states: "[The firm] is a founding member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project and a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. The firm has annually made and met a commitment to donate 3 percent of our billable hours to pro bono services. That represents an average of more than 50 hours of pro bono work annually for each lawyer, equal to more than 40,000 hours firm wide. We have met or exceeded the Challenge every year since its inception in 1994."

But Cromwell & Goodwin does not appear on a list of signatories to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. And when contacted by The Am Law Daily, the Pro Bono Institute said it had never heard of Cromwell & Goodwin and that no firm by that name had ever participated in the project.

We contacted Sullivan & Cromwell and Goodwin Procter to determine whether either firm--parts of whose names could be confused with the Cromwell & Goodwin moniker--knew anything about Cromwell & Goodwin. A Goodwin Procter spokesman told us he was referring the matter to the firm's general counsel. Sullivan & Cromwell did not respond.

Keyko says he first thought that perhaps the Cromwell & Goodwin site might be part a government sting operation. Asked if a front for such an operation would publish information connected to actual individuals and businesses, such as the press release mentioning Clifford Chance and Fleury, Keyko says that the government wouldn't do so without "clueing in" those individuals beforehand.

Meanwhile, if the site is part of some kind of scam, Keyko is confused about how it's supposed to work. "It appears they're after small businesses, but it doesn't make sense to set up something like this if you're trying to scam someone if you can't get through on the phone number and there's no address to actually go there," he says. "How are you going to get business?"

And even if Cromwell & Goodwin was created as a joke, its backers may not be laughing for long. Last week, Keyko contacted the special prosecutions bureau of the New York County District Attorney's Office, which investigates the unauthorized practice of law as part of its portfolio probing financial crimes, about the Web site's existence.

We'll keep you posted about where this mystery leads.

Make a comment

Comments (22)
Save & Share: Facebook | Del.ic.ious | | Email |

Reprints & Permissions

Comments

Report offensive comments to The Am Law Daily.

An April Fool's Day joke, perhaps?

Cromwell and Goodwin have contacted me regarding some worthless shares that I own saying that they have a client who wants to buy them at an inflated price, but that I will have to put up 30% of the money that I would eventually get as a 'bond' for 14 days prior to me receiving the money in full. I am very dubious about this and will be seeking advice.

My father in the UK is being asked to sell some shares for a UK firm as long as he sign a non-disclosure agreement and give them a large sum of money up front. This article has helped me convince him that it is a scam. Maybe this is why itdoesn't make sense in the USA.

have been offered £57000 purchase price for shares worth less than £500 but I need to deposit 10%........
if it sounds too good to be true it normally is!

My Father also in the UK has been contacted to sell shares as above being asked to sign a non disclosure agreement and pay money up front before he receives any money. Alarm bells started to ring for me at this stage and I googled them. They are quite persistent phoning Dad to check if the agreement had been signed and returned etc. Horrible scam for a couple nearly in their 80's.

Intriguing. Someone went to a lot of trouble. I tried googling phrases from the bios of the fake attorneys, and found some similarities to these lawyers' profiles from Denis I Finn Solicitors' website, which is what the scammers must have used as a model.



Solicitors

Denis Finn
Managing Partner

Denis qualified as a Solicitor in 1975 having graduated from University College Dublin with a BCL Degree in 1973. Following experience working as a Solicitor working as a Lawyer with the Bank of Ireland Group. Denis founded the practice in 1980. He has considerable experience in the areas of Commercial Law, Banking, Company Law, Property and Family Law. He has also taken an interest in social issues involving drug addiction and relevant bodies.

Deirdre McDermott
Partner

Deirdre graduated from UCD in 1980 with a BCL Degree. She qualified as a solicitor in 1983 and became a partner in the firm in 1985. She has wide experience in Litigation, Conveyancing and Family Law. She is a member of the DSBA and is a member of their Litigation Committee. She also holds a Diploma in European Law.

The "Values" statement is from Clyde & CO.

Since 1933, our lawyers have passionately lived and worked with the following values. Today, as an international law firm, working across borders and industries, our values are as important to us as they were when we started.

That appears to be taken from the values statement for Clyde & Co.

The "Social Responsibility" content seems to come from this site: http://www.clydeco.com/firm/corporate-social-responsibility.cfm

Possibly for an upcoming movie...

Equally likely it is a web site created as a marketing proof in concept for web skill not legal skills.

Look at the Careers and Social Responsibility pages. This is coming out of Hong Kong or elsewhere in China.

What's amazing is how easy it was to look behind the curtain and detect the fraud. Good luck doing due diligence on such a site among the BRICs et al.

If it was a marketing or web design firm showing off, then their efforts are a bit misguided, and they need to improve their writing skills.

This definitely seems like a front for an elaborate scam. Hopefully we'll see news about a lawsuit involving the creators of the site soon.

I live in the uk my 70yearold farther was contacted by this firm offering to buy shares he had. they said his shares had accumulated three fold and if he forwarded a bond of 5000 uk pounds they would send him the rest of the money my father has early dememtia fortunately he told me and i could find no records of the firm being legitimare so no money sent how many more have they frauded ?

It is a scam site. A relatively sophisticated variation on the Nigerian scams everyone is familier with. A friend in the UK forwarded an e-mail purporting to be from this firm a month or so ago. I don't have his e-mail any more but the name of the firm sounds familiar. The contents were standard scam: big money at stake, an inheritance, we are a global law firm etc.

Friend asked if I'd heard of them and after some quick research told him not to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

I'm guessing it is a foreign-based (West Africa or Eastern Europe) scam.

It says they are experts in "Intelectual Property" so you'd think they'd be able to spell intellectual correctly.

Should have called it Lockhart & Gardner...

Well it was interesting to see that even the faked website still had a "Fraud Litigation and Asset Recovery" division. Perhaps we should penalise offenders by their own values, not what normal people think is just and right. If people are decent, treat them decently, if they are scoundrals, treat them accordingly. If we catch a thief, take every thing from him, if we catch a terrorist who was plotting to kill innocent victims ~ penalise him according to his standards ~ simple!

They lifted part of their privacy policy from Holme Roberts & Owen. Slick site that doesn't take too long to put together if you copy and paste from other large law firm sites. The site is probably to give legitimacy to a scam email campaign. People will Google the law firm, see the site, and figure it checks out because at first glance it looks real.

Hi - about your Cromwell Goodwin findings...I may be able to shed some light!

I have been contacted by mobile telephone and on home number by a representative of the above mentioned. They are very convincing and sound quite genuine. They were offering me above average market prices for my shares in a company, stating they were representing a client who was trying to buy all the outstanding shares in a hostile takeover.

Because it is hostile I was asked not to tell anyone and was sent a non-disclosure agreement to sign. I was also informed that I would have to bail a 'bond' of 30% of the total value - to hold the deal and cover an insurance type of payment in advance.

That is how they are trying to make money. I felt quite pressured by the representative who tried to contact me 4-5 times and was quite insistent I return the NDA.

I am due to receive a call later today and will inform them I am not interested. Particularly as my brief google search on the organisation led me to your article quite quickly...

Please warn others about this scam....

My dad has also been bombarded with phone calls both from Cromwell Goodwin, and Gordon Group Services - they seem to have the same tactics and interestingly registered their sites on the same day using Namecheap.com.


Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In





By: TwitterButtons.comhttp://www.facebookloginhut.com/facebook-login/


[email protected]




From the Law.com Newswire

Sign up to receive Legal Blog Watch by email
View a Sample

Advertisement