Reebok CEO Paul Fireman and lawyers from Boston’s Goulston & Storrs used to enter the courtroom side by side. Those days appear to be over.
Fireman lashed out at his longtime legal team earlier this month by filing a multi-million-dollar suit alleging legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of Chapter 93A.
The prominent Boston executive, now chairman of Fireman Capital Partners, is seeking more than $4.6 million in damages, claiming in court filings that Goulston dropped the ball when it represented him in the purchase of a Gulfstream 450 aircraft.
Fireman is requesting treble damages and attorneys’ fees for the allegedly shoddy advice he received from a “broadly staffed” team of attorneys working in the firm’s tax and corporate departments.
Kevin M. Colmey of Boston’s Sullivan & Worcester, counsel to Fireman and his Willowbend Aviation company, declined to comment.
But in the complaint, Colmey and colleague Barry S. Pollack write that the 200-lawyer Goulston lacked the necessary knowledge and expertise to properly advise Fireman on the purchase.
“After holding itself out as fully capable, Goulston engaged in misconduct by failing to admit its deficiencies, as a result of which it failed to advise Willowbend concerning, among other things, various tax consequences related to the acquisition of the Aircraft,” they write. “Had Goulston given proper advice … Willowbend could have recognized a tax savings of more than $4.6 million.”
When it became apparent that the purported blunder subjected Goulston to a malpractice claim, the firm’s lawyers failed to advise Fireman that his interests had become adverse to the firm’s, according to the complaint.
The suit names the firm only; no individual lawyers are listed as defendants. A Goulston & Storrs spokeswoman declined to comment.
News of the complaint comes just as Fireman settled a high-profile age discrimination suit brought by Virginia DiIorio.
DiIorio, a former employee of the Fireman-owned Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee, Mass., alleged in 2009 that she had been terminated from her job because she was over 50.
“All I can say at this point is that the case has settled,” says DiIorio’s Boston lawyer, Marc Redlich. “Beyond that, I can’t tell you anything more.”
What is known is that the full Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination last October affirmed a hearing officer’s six-figure award against the club, finding that DiIorio was entitled to back pay, emotional damages and attorneys’ fees.
Interestingly, Goulston & Storrs represented Fireman’s club throughout the MCAD proceedings. However, at nearly the same time Fireman was allegedly confronting the firm about its mishandling of the aviation purchase, S&W took over the DiIorio matter, which had been appealed to a judge in Massachusetts Superior Court.
“The plot thickens, as they say,” Redlich quips. “I can tell you that I had no knowledge at all of any internal matters between Fireman and his lawyers at Goulston. It had no bearing on my client’s case.”