Corporate Counsel’s David Hechler offers a fascinating glimpse into a GC’s view of events in the news. Mr. Hechler reports on the legal maneuverings behind Paul Wolfowitz’s fall from grace at the World Bank, with insights from Roberto DaÃ±ino, the bank’s former GC. This account provides a welcome counterpoint to some opinion pieces, such as this one from the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Wolfowitz, as Wired GC readers undoubtedly know, resigned last week as president of the World Bank over concerns about his handling of the transfer of his girlfriend from the bank to the State Department. As the president of anything, you normally don’t want any personal ethical problem in the news, let alone one that involves your “girlfriend.”
Anyway, at various times in the review of this delicate situation, Mr. Wolfowitz reportedly consulted Mr. DaÃ±ino, utilized personal counsel, and then went to outside counsel when Mr. DaÃ±ino was “conflicted.” These actions didn’t make sense to the then-GC:
DaÃ±ino says he’s baffled by this decision. “How [could Wolfowitz] make a call about conflicting out the lawyer of the bank, who happened to have also given advice that he didn’t like?” Also, he adds, the rationale in the adviser’s memo made no sense. Not only was Wolfowitz represented by his own lawyers, “the general counsel is not the personal lawyer of the president,” DaÃ±ino says. “The general counsel is the lawyer for the institution.”
Mr. DaÃ±ino was allegedly not shown the terms of the employment contract for Mr. Wolfowitz’s girlfriend that may have contained terms more generous than those approved by the bank’s ethics committee. Experienced GCs know that outcomes can sometimes be “managed” by corporate personnel based upon the extent of disclosure of key documents and whether direct contact is allowed with key actors in real time.
My favorite remark from Mr. DaÃ±ino:
“I tell my children all the time: When you make a mistake, it’s not so much the mistake you make [that counts], but how you react to your mistake…”
General Counsel rarely speak with the press; rarer still are comments about the inside doings of events in the public spotlight. Two cheers for Mr. DaÃ±ino for allowing a look behind the veil; three cheers for Mr. Hechler for going well beneath the surface in his excellent and timely reporting.