The Firms

August 8, 2011 7:44 PM

K&L Gates Sues Former Partner Charged with Forgery

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 8/22/11, 1:05 p.m. Former K&L Gates partner Navin Kumar Aggarwal has admitted taking money from client accounts to pay for his gambling debts, according to sibling publication The Asian Lawyer.

Lawyers in the U.S. do not hold a monopoly on allegations of financial impropriety.

Navin Kumar Aggarwal, a former corporate partner in K&L Gates's Hong Kong office, is being sued by the firm after being arrested on charges of theft and forgery over the transfer of funds to a casino company in Macau, Bloomberg reports.

Aggarwal, who ceased to be a partner at K&L Gates on June 11, is accused of stealing roughly $2 million from the accounts of RIM China and moving the funds to Wynn International Marketing Limited last year. He was charged on June 24 with six counts of theft and forgery and currently remains in the custody of Hong Kong police, according to the Macau Daily Times.

K&L Gates brochures identify Aggarwal as the former head of the firm's corporate finance team in Hong Kong whose practice included M&A, regulatory compliance, and securities work. Aggarwal also was a member of K&L Gates's betting and gaming practice, and last year led a team from the firm advising ICBC International Capital as underwriter for Chu Kong Petroleum's $173 million initial public offering.

Aggarwal resigned from K&L Gates in June after being confronted with the allegations that he diverted clients funds, according to Bloomberg. The firm said in a statement to The Am Law Daily that it takes the allegations of misdeeds against Aggarwal "very seriously" and is cooperating with Hong Kong authorities in the investigation of its former partner.

"[K&L Gates] takes this matter very seriously, and . . . such misconduct is utterly repugnant, intolerable, and wholly contrary to the firm's policies, values, and expectations," the firm said in its statement. "The firm also engaged both independent counsel and forensic accountants to conduct a full internal investigation, which is being overseen by the firm's managing partner, Asia."

The managing partner of K&L Gates's Asian operations is David Tang in Hong Kong. A K&L Gates spokesman says that Robertsons Solicitors in Hong Kong is handling the internal investigation for the firm.

K&L Gates further stated that it will "pursue and support any and all measures--administrative, civil, and criminal--against any wrongdoer to rectify any harm that has been done and to prevent any recurrence."

Bloomberg reports that K&L Gates sued Aggarwal on June 27 for breach of trust, seeking to have Hong Kong's High Court freeze his assets. The firm itself has been the target of at least six lawsuits by clients seeking about $32 million in missing funds as a result of Aggarwal's conduct, Bloomberg reports.

Clifford Ng, the former administrative partner-in-charge of K&L Gates's Hong Kong office, has been named as a defendant in at least one of the suits filed by former clients, according to Bloomberg. Ng is now of counsel with the firm.

Aggarwal's lawyer, Gloria Chan in Hong Kong, declined Bloomberg's request for comment on the criminal charges and civil actions pending against her client.

K&L Gates isn't the only Am Law 100 to recently run into trouble with one of its former partners. Last week former Sullivan & Cromwell M&A partner John O'Brien pleaded guilty to charges that he failed to pay $2.8 million in federal taxes.

The charges against O'Brien came three weeks after former Kirkland & Ellis restructuring partner Theodore Freedman entered not guilty pleas to four counts of underreporting his income by more than $2 million during a four-year period between 2001 and 2004.

Last year, a former Duane Morris and DLA Piper partner in Singapore, Rudy Lim, was sentenced to one day in jail and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after being found guilty of forging pay slips in an ill-fated bid to increase his annual compensation when switching firms.

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