‘Behemoth’ law firm to fight Grynberg?

Last August, shortly before the 2011 general elections, Saint Lucia’s then prime minister Stephenson King convened a press conference that was supposed to clear up the darker corners of the nation’s most inconvenient truth.
Already Kenny Anthony’s media magicians had easily persuaded the population, including, I suspect, King himself, that whatever it was that had torpedoed an oil project involving the government of Saint Lucia and Jack Grynberg, only one man was responsible. And it wasn’t the prime minister who in 2000, without the knowledge of his Cabinet, let alone opposition parliamentarians, had engaged the Colorado-based oilman to explore the Saint Lucia seabed for Texas tea, otherwise known as black gold. Oil!
To be fair, throughout the brouhaha leading up to King’s ballyhooed press conference, also attended by the Central Castries MP Richard Frederick and a representative of one of the world’s most famous law firms, Kenny Anthony had remained tightlipped. As tight-lipped as he had been during Frederick’s 2009 Budget address when the MP had first revealed that for almost nine years Saint Lucia’s seabed had effectively been controlled by a highly controversial American businessman, an arrangement about which much remained unknown, thanks to the absence of related information in the government’s files.
Anthony’s only reaction came some two weeks later in a televised address during which he said his good name was under attack by opposition members with only elections on their minds. He threatened to take legal action against anyone reckless enough to repeat Frederick’s baseless allegations outside the privileged House—which effectively kept most of the pusillanimous press at bay.
Oh, and he admonished the day’s prime minister for frittering away scarce millions of tax dollars on the altogether unnecessary opinions of American lawyers when clearly the Grynberg contract had long ago expired. Himself a constitutional lawyer, Kenny Anthony in effect advised the prime minister either to extend the old arrangement or tell the American oilman where to stick it!
As I say, while that was probably his last public word on the matter, there were several defensive voices that could hardly wait to speak persuasively for Anthony, in particular his Dominican lawyer for all seasons Anthony Astaphan. Alas, what he said on the particular issue for the most part clearly suggested he was for once misinformed or out of the loop, to say the very least. In all events, there were understandably no useful responses. Not from the government itself, not from its staunchest surrogates. What could the last mentioned have said in the circumstances that might’ve contradicted Astaphan, regionally famous for making their leader appear the King of fools!
As if already Astaphan were not too heavy a load for the government, the nation and the rest of the Caribbean were soon hearing from the hardly virginal former UN ambassador Earl Huntley about King’s renewal of Grynberg’s expired contract. He was well positioned to know, Huntley assured our notoriously incurious radio, print and TV reporters: the official good-news letter to Jack Grynberg had been entrusted to Huntley for delivery.
The reporters saw no need to ask why the King government had not used the post office or e-mailed the letter to Grynberg’s office address in the U.S. Or sent it by diplomatic pouch. It didn’t seem to matter that by this time Huntley had long retired from the public service, was unemployed, and had no good reason to be involved in the affairs of government.
Then again it had long been common knowledge the ties that bound Huntley’s soul to the American oilman’s local activities: Huntley it was who had discovered oil on his foot while frolicking with a woman in the sea at Dauphin; Huntley who had been savvy enough to privately invite Grynberg to sniff out the Dauphin air; Huntley who had finally introduced the oilman to Saint Lucia’s obviously impressed prime minister—who soon delivered Grynberg his every wish, including an all-important license to explore the island’s seabed, Saint Lucia’s Minerals Act notwithstanding!
Unforgettably, Huntley also had been the chosen repository for all the documents relating to the oil exploration project—documents he later implied only he and the prime minister knew existed!
Finally, there was the voice of Ausbert d’Auvergne that had corroborated Huntley’s every word. If only the dynamic duo could’ve supplied evidence supportive of their exhalations. Or proof that they had neither personal nor political interest in the outcome of the Grynberg issue. Not that any of that finally mattered. The loudest squeak gets the oil, so to speak, and on this occasion it certainly did not emanate from King’s palace!
Yes, so at his November 2011 press conference, with nearly everyone already convinced, whether or not by wizardry, that whatever the prime minister might say about Grynberg would be false and self-serving, King repeated to reporters what most had already heard or read and did not wish to hear again.
He revealed his government had been approached by at least two oil companies seeking exploratory rights to the Saint Lucia seabed but with Jack Grynberg insisting his contract was still valid there was little the government could do outside of a courtroom. He said it was “grossly unfair that the former prime minister Kenny Anthony had signed an agreement giving domain to a foreign company over Saint Lucia for a period exceeding 50 years.”
King also revealed that the attorney at his press conference was Brian King (conceivably not a relative!) of the “London-based law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer” and that he had been hired to provide the day’s government with advice on how best to deal with the Grynberg issue. For his own part the lawyer said little about the matter involving the government of Saint Lucia and the oilman from Denver, Colorado, except that the government had set out to negotiate a resolution with RSM but so far RSM “has refused to accept.”
Referring to the distinct possibility that the famously litigious Jack Grynberg could carry out his implied threat to sue for breach of contract if the government should entertain new bidders for exploration rights, the lawyer recalled it had taken Grenada at least seven years to extricate itself from Grynberg—at great cost to the people of Grenada.
Additionally: “These international proceedings are serious and take much time to settle,” he said. “Realistically it would entail two to three years for such arbitrary tribunal matters to be completed.”
More recently we have been informed that RSM has sued the government via the prime minister Kenny Anthony and his attorney general for breach of contract. In a related press release Dr Anthony said his government would put up a vigorous defense and that the attorney general’s office was already actively scouting for specialist lawyers. Since then, nearly six months ago, silence. All attempts by opposition MPs to bring up the matter in parliament have met with resistance. But now American sources have informed the STAR that the government has retained the services of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to defend our government’s good name when finally a hearing date has been established.
True or false, might that be the same law firm hired prior to last November’s elections to advise the King government on how best to handle the arrangement between Kenny Anthony and RSM’s Jack Grynberg? Was then opposition leader Kenny Anthony referring to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer when he said the day’s prime minister was wasting taxpayers’ money on legal opinions when what he had before him was an open-and- shut case involving an agreement long expired?
Will we hear any time soon from Saint Lucia’s prime minister on this issue that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in retainer fees alone? Will we hear from the leader of the opposition, other than “I have no idea what’s going on, ask Kenny Anthony?”  Meanwhile we should all hope for the best.
After all, not for nothing is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer referred to as “a global behemoth.” According to one writer: “This London-based Magic Circle firm employs 2600 attorneys in 27 offices around the world, and has the second highest revenue in the world among law firms, at almost $2.4 billion. In the U.S. Freshfields has become very well known in particular for its arbitration work such as mineral or energy rights.”
Interestingly, in 2011 RSM Production Corporation alleged in a District of Columbia court that two Freshlands attorneys, Jan Paulsson and the earlier mentioned Brian King were part of the conspiracy to bribe Grenada officials and deny RSM its licensing rights. According to court documents RSM contended that “Freshfields conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Act by representing Grenada before the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes arbitration panel tasked with resolving the terminated contract dispute between the country and the plaintiff. Plaintiff now seeks at least $500 million in damages from Freshfields.”
The court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss “for failure to state a claim.”

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