Vinson dragged in to fresh Enron suit

Vinson & Elkins faces yet another saga in the ongoing Enron nightmare with a fresh filing in a shareholder litigation detailing allegations the firm knew of improper dealings at Enron as early as 1999.

Lawyers for shareholders, who lost billions in the energy giant’s 2001 collapse, filed a 281-page brief this week alleging the Texan firm “acted with knowledge or at least with reckless disregard” in its advice to Enron.

The filing details hundreds of internal documents, including emails, memos and voicemail messages between attorneys working on more than a dozen separate transactions in an attempt to show Vinson was aware of improper dealings at Enron.

Vinson managing partner Joe Dilg, who was the firm’s relationship partner with Enron, is central to the claim.

Several of the deals included were central to the criminal case where former Enron chief executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffery Skilling were found guilty.

The filing made before US District Judge Melinda Harmon said in part: “Given [Vinson’s] financial sophistication and specialisation in structuring financial deals to achieve targeted financial and off-balance-sheet results, its constant, years-long involvement in Enron’s bogus deals, it could not have been genuinely oblivious to the import and impact of Enron’s financial manipulations.”

A motion from Vinson’s attorneys to have the firm removed from the shareholder class action suit sparked the filing. Vinson recently paid $30m to the Enron bankruptcy estate to avoid a lawsuit launched by the estate.

Vinson is being represented by Williams & Connolly, a highly rated US litigation practice operating out of Washington DC which specialises in high profile civil and criminal cases. Corporate litigation partner John Villa is leading the defence for the firm.

Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins chairman William Lerach is heading the class action for Enron shareholders. Lerach Coughlin is the 140-lawyer California-based securities and corporate litigation firm, which split from Milberg Weiss last year.