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EXCLUSIVE: Behind The Downfall Of Latham's Chairman

Law360 (March 20, 2018, 1:55 PM EDT) --
Bill Voge %>
Bill Voge
(Updated: March 20, 2018, 9:51 PM EDT) -- Before his sudden departure Tuesday, Latham & Watkins LLP Chair Bill Voge engaged in a pattern of reckless behavior starting with sexually explicit messages sent to a woman he approached on behalf of a Christian men’s group and culminating in threats to her husband to have her thrown in jail.

Law360 had been investigating the allegations of Voge’s inappropriate conduct over the past week and a half, reviewing dozens of emails, text messages and documents. According to the documents, Voge first contacted the woman, who is not affiliated with the firm, in September and volunteered to help her engage in “Christian reconciliation” with a member of the New Canaan Society, where Voge sat on the board.

The relationship became personal in mid-November, when Voge and the woman exchanged graphic sexual text messages, which Law360 has reviewed and confirmed came from a number belonging to Voge. The two have never met in person.

Although the relationship was consensual at the outset, the woman, who spoke to Law360 on condition of anonymity, said Voge took things too far by trying to get her to come to his hotel room.

After the relationship soured, the woman began telling her story over the next few months in emails, texts and phone calls to Voge’s attorney Terry Ekl, Voge’s assistant, partners at Latham, attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Voge’s wife. In a number of these communications, she included the explicit text messages.

Looking to speak to lawyers at a comparably sized firm, the woman reached out to two attorneys at Kirkland, saying she needed an attorney who wouldn't be intimidated by Voge. She said in an email to the two Kirkland attorneys that she had felt taken advantage of by Voge.

“This coming from a man who gained access into my life because he was representing a Christian organization,” she wrote. One Kirkland attorney declined to comment and the other one couldn’t be reached.

In December, the woman emailed Voge’s attorney and said: “I’m sorry but I will have to tell Latham and Watkins. Bill Voge knew I was in pain and he took advantage of that. They should know about his character and what he does when he travels. I would not be a good person to hold back that information. What other women has he done this to?”

In an interview at Law360’s office minutes before the news of Voge’s resignation broke, Ekl said the sexual text messages were out of character for Voge and that Voge had never been accused of inappropriate behavior before.

Voge and Ekl have consistently disputed the woman’s characterization of the events. Ekl has said she has engaged in a relentless and hostile campaign to smear Voge’s reputation and publicly humiliate him.

Ekl said the woman’s behavior constitutes cyber harassment, and Voge described her as a “cyberstalker” in a March 14 phone call with Law360, but declined to go into more detail.

On Nov. 30, Ekl sent the woman a cease-and-desist order outlining local felony cyberstalking and harassment laws, threatening civil or criminal action if she didn’t stop.

“Mr. Voge has indicated to us that he has suffered emotional distress due to your multiple email and text messages sent to him and to others,” Ekl wrote in his letter.

Ekl demanded she cut off contact with Voge and told her to stop harassing people connected to him, including Voge’s family and Latham, though no order of protection or lawsuit was ever filed.

In his Tuesday interview with Law360, Ekl said: “Bill did not want to file charges or an action. He wanted her to stop.”

Latham became aware of the situation late last year, and the firm’s general counsel was looking into Voge’s conduct, according to emails and texts seen by Law360.

In a statement Tuesday, Latham said, “Mr. Voge tendered his resignation after making a series of voluntary disclosures to the firm’s executive committee relating to his personal conduct. Mr. Voge’s conduct involved the exchange of communications of a sexual nature with a woman whom he has never met in person and who had no connection to the firm. Mr. Voge’s conduct did not involve the firm, any of its clients, or its personnel. Mr. Voge engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, the executive committee concluded was not befitting the leader of the firm.”

Latham and Voge declined to comment further on Tuesday. While Latham did not elaborate on the “subsequent conduct,” Law360 has learned that although Voge severed contact with the woman in November, in the months that followed, he communicated with her husband and at least one family friend.

In a series of text messages with the woman’s husband in late January that Law360 has reviewed, Voge’s tone ranges from apologetic to menacing.

“It was sinful, but not a crime,” Voge wrote in an exchange with the woman’s husband. “How many times can I apologize for my actions? … Both of us were wrong.”

But in the same exchange, Voge also said the woman would go to jail for promulgating the texts and emails and that Voge would travel to personally witness her arrest. Voge said he wished to make an example out of her to “help the next victim.”

“It is not threats about jail. She will be in jail!!!” Voge wrote.

Voge, who is married, resigned from the board of the New Canaan Society in November. According to the New Canaan Society’s website, the organization is “a group of men who gather together to encourage each other in friendship and faith and to support each other to be better husbands, fathers — and better men — in the marketplace and in our communities.”

Calls and emails to the New Canaan Society, its president, and former board members were not returned.

Voge joined Latham in 1983. He served on the executive committee from 1998 to 2002 and from 2008 to 2012. He became chair in 2015. In 2017, Latham became the first law firm to break $3 billion in revenue, according to The American Lawyer.

Current Latham vice-chairs Ora Fisher and Richard Trobman will take over as interim co-chairs of the firm.

In a statement Tuesday, Voge said: “I deeply regret my lapse of judgment and I am sorry for the distress and embarrassment I have caused my family, friends, and colleagues. My conduct falls well below the personal and professional standards I have tried to uphold throughout my entire career.”

--Editing by Kerry Benn.

Update: This story has been updated to include more details.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify which member of Voge's family the woman contacted.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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