Democrat Joe Biden is reportedly considering a trial lawyer as a potential ambassador pick, yet this attorney raked in millions of dollars from the coronavirus relief bill passed earlier this year while at the same time securing hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Joseph Rice, who co-founded Motley Rice law firm based in South Carolina, raised more than $100,000 for Biden’s presidential campaign, while his employees donated another $50,000 to Biden and more money to other Democrats. Now Rice is possibly up for an ambassadorship, according to local newspaper The State.
As the Free Beacon reported, Rice’s law firm received $7.03 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, the coronavirus relief program designed to help struggling small businesses when state government’s shut down their livelihoods as part of the pandemic.
“Rice’s firm gained approval for the loans after stacking up massive legal wins. In October 2019, Motley Rice announced a $260 million settlement against opioid manufacturers Teva, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson. In November 2020, it helped win a $26 billion settlement from Johnson & Johnson and other pharmaceutical companies. Law firms often work on a contingency basis and receive portions of the settlements they reach,” the Free Beacon reported.
William Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School and creator of the Legal Insurrection website, told the Free Beacon that Motley Rice’s receiving of PPP loans raises serious questions.
“When a highly successful law firm receives millions of dollars in PPP money, it raises questions as to whether those funds actually went to preserve jobs, which is the purpose of the PPP program, or merely padded the shareholder attorneys’ profitability,” Jacobson said. “This certainly raises serious questions that warrant investigation if a founding member of the law firm is nominated for an ambassadorship.”
In July, Reuters ran a report about several prominent law firms that were known for getting big settlements from major companies but applied for and received PPP loans:
Two legal industry experts said that plaintiffs’ firms have a business model that should enable them to weather financial uncertainty and questioned whether they really needed government aid.
Successful plaintiffs’ firms “almost certainly have resources to carry them over when waiting for big settlements,” said Herbert Kritzer, a University of Minnesota Law School professor.
Lieff Cabraser, which negotiated a nearly $15 billion settlement with Volkswagen over its diesel emissions scandal in 2016, in January was one of three firms approved to receive fees of up to $40 million for representing truck owners and lessees in litigation against Navistar International Corp, court records showed.
Managing partner Steven Fineman told Reuters that Lieff Cabraser used the millions it received from the PPP to prevent layoffs and pay staff.
“We applied for a PPP loan at a time when our firm’s lawyers and staff were all required to work remotely… and we had no idea how the pandemic would impact our finances,” Fineman told the outlet.
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