US law firm caught up in race storm

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The Independent Online

One of New York's longest-established law firms helped a corporate client fend off discrimination suits from "nigs, spicks and Jews", according to that client.

One of New York's longest-established law firms helped a corporate client fend off discrimination suits from "nigs, spicks and Jews", according to that client.

Proskauer Rose was allegedly "masterful" in its blocking of complaints from black, Jewish and Hispanic workers at Marubeni America (MA), a US subsidiary of the Japanese trading conglomerate Marubeni.

An email from Joe Van Dorn, the former head of human resources at MA, said Allen Fagin, a partner at Proskauer Rose, "is always available to help protect Mac [MA] from, among others, these Bs, Js and Hs. He's done a masterful job in this arena."

The email has come to light in a separate discrimination case brought against MA by Kevin Long, a senior HR employee, and Ludvic Presto, the company's top internal auditor, who were placed on paid administrative leave in December. Together they are pushing for $55m (£30m) in damages plus $4m each in severance payments.

In documents filed in a Manhattan court last week, the two claim MA discriminated against blacks, non-Oriental minorities and women. The suit alleges that non-Orientals are paid less and hired and promoted less often than Orientals. The 200-worker company has no blacks or females and just one Hispanic among its top officers and managers, the suit says, plus only three black staff.

Proskauer Rose, which is representing the company in its defence against Mr Long and Mr Presto, said: "Any suggestion [the law firm] encouraged or condoned employment discrimination of any kind is completely false and utterly outrageous."

It added that the case of Mr Long and Mr Presto was an "outrageous attempt" to gain severance payments.

Douglas Wigdor, a partner at Thompson Wigdor & Gilly, which represents the two men, said: "There were blatant violations of a host of laws." He added that "other government agencies" might look at MA, which allegedly violated immigration laws, committed accounting fraud and allowed executives to abuse expense accounts. The Japanese parent is not involved in the case.

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