Robert Pincus, controversial lawyer at the center of multiple legal battles over exorbitant fees and alleged fraud
Who is Robert Pincus?
Robert B. Pincus
is a former custodian of Delaware’s Chancery Court who previously served as a partner in the embattled law firm, Skadden Arps. Robert Pincus has had a long and varied career in the legal industry and is often viewed as a controversial figure.
Education and Legal Career
Robert Pincus graduated from Harriton High School in the Greater Philadelphia area. He earned a B.B.A from the College of William and Mary in 1977 and a Juris Doctorate from the American University Washington College of Law. Pincus later attended Georgetown University Law Center in 1993.
Pincus got his career start in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he was immersed in the world of corporate disclosure documents and rule making proceedings. In 1983, he joined the Wilmington, Delaware office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom as a corporate associate. Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, would earn a reputation for corruption. Robert Pincus worked for the law firm for a total of 35 years, serving as a partner and mergers and acquisition lawyer. Pincus departed Skadden Arps in 2018.
After his departure from Skadden Arps, Pincus took on a new role as Custodian of the Delaware Chancery Court, working alongside former Chancellor Andre Bouchard
. Pincus and Bouchard have faced scrutiny over their personal relationship and the perceived lack of transparency in their Court processes and rulings.
Why is Robert Pincus Controversial?
Robert Pincus is frequently featured in negative headlines for not being transparent in his Court processes and for a pattern of overbilling.
Transperfect Billing Practices
Robert Pincus’s controversial mishandling of the Transperfect case is well-known in Delaware and the legal community at-large.
Robert B. Pincus, was appointed custodian to Transperfect by a Delaware judge in 2015 to oversee the company. The appointment followed a ruling that the company’s co-founders, Liz Elting and Phil Shawe, were unable to effectively run the company together. In 2017, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the appointment, dismissing the argument that the judge did not have the authority to order the sale of a profitable company based solely on a leadership dispute.
After the appointment, Transperfect CEO Phil Shawe purchased Elting’s stake in the company through a “modified auction” and relocated the company’s headquarters from Delaware to Nevada.
Throughout the auction process, and for years afterwards, Transperfect experienced difficulties with obscene legal invoicing by the Delaware Chancery court-appointed custodian, Robert Pincus, and his law firm, Skadden Arps. The Chancery Court had consistently ruled in favor of Pincus and Skadden, ordering TransPerfect and its CEO, Philip R. Shawe, to pay millions in legal fees nearly three years after the conclusion of the court-ordered sale and attempted breakup of the company. Skadden continues to invoice TransPerfect each month for issues related to the sale process, tax matters, and other legal matters, and the company’s fees have remained unchecked.On November 17, 2021, TransPerfect filed an appeal with Delaware’s Supreme Court.
In the last few weeks of 2022, Robert Pincus was in the spotlight in Delaware news outlets for his role in Skadden Arps receiving over $15 million dollars in additional post-sale fees. The dispute stemmed from Robert Pincus’ Custodian appointment in the aforementioned TransPerfect Global case for the sale of the company. In this case, Custodian Robert Pincus incessantly billed TransPerfect millions of dollars at a rate of $1,425 per hour for undocumented bills and receipts equating to over $15 million dollars in legal fees.
TransPerfect, citing court corruption, sought a lawsuit outside of Delaware with Custodian Robert Pincus to ensure a fair trial. Robert Pincus is still held up in this lawsuit at the time of writing.
Transperfect Global, Inc. v. Pincus
In the TransPerfect case, an independent legal billing expert found numerous instances of questionable billing practices by Pincus and recommended across-the-board fee reductions, only to have those recommendations largely ignored by the Chancery Court. As a result, TransPerfect incurred millions of dollars in legal fees throughout the case. These issues ultimately led to a legal case: TransPerfect Global Inc. v. Pincus.
Pincus reportedly billed Transperfect for his services in the matter, ranging from $58,000 to $90,000 per month. However, Transperfect alleges that these bills contain misrepresentations and that the judge approved them without realizing that the company had not been given the opportunity to review them. Without access to specific information about the work done, who performed it, and the hourly rate, Transperfect is unable to “assess the reasonableness of the amount of fees,” according to the complaint.
Transperfect argued in the lawsuit that Skadden, the law firm representing Pincus, has demanded payment from Transperfect rather than using the escrow fund established to cover Pincus’s fees, and has cited sealed court documents that Transperfect is unable to access in response to questions about the fees.
In 2022 Transperfect filed a lawsuit in Delaware federal court against retired Skadden Arps partner Robert Pincus and Credit Suisse Securities, alleging that the two parties engaged in securities fraud by misrepresenting the results of a judicial auction and causing the company to pay an extra $70 million.
Pincus, who served as court custodian for the auction, is accused of hiring Houlihan Lokey to assess sale alternatives and presenting a report to the Court of Chancery recommending a modified auction that was dependent on a noncompete restriction that was ultimately not imposed.
TransPerfect alleges that Pincus failed to disclose his editorial control over the report. Credit Suisse, which was hired in November 2016, is accused of changing the rules and increasing the number of bidding rounds during the auction to create the impression of real price competition, ultimately costing TransPerfect millions of dollars.
National Hockey League
Insurance companies involved in a legal dispute with the National Hockey League (NHL) have accused Skadden Arps and Proskauer Rose, the league’s law firms of overcharging for legal services.
The NHL’s insurer’s alleged the law firms were charging unreasonable and unnecessary fees in connection with a concussion lawsuit that was settled in 2018. From 2013 to 2018, NHL insurers paid legal bills of $70.6 million, $4 in legal fees for every $1 it paid to the players settlement.
“The Insurers allege that Skadden and Proskauer billed the NHL unreasonably and for unnecessary work,” a court filing this week notes. “If the Insurers are successful, the NHL will have a claim against Skadden and Proskauer for overbilling.”
These allegations raise serious concerns about Skadden’s billing practices and the fairness of the fees charged to the NHL. Further the allegations represent a series of similar charges against Skadden’s billing practices.
Oil company Citgo challenged Pincus’ egregious invoicing. Pincus’ billing practices were called into question in his role as Custodian in the sale of Citgo. In that case, Pincus exceeded a court-mandated $2 million fee cap, leading to complaints of overbilling from the parties involved.
These instances of questionable billing practices raise serious concerns about the transparency and fairness of Pincus’ business dealings. It remains to be seen how these issues will be addressed moving forward.
A Delaware Federal judge overruled Citgo and awarded Pincus and Skadden in this case as well.
Allegations of Frivolous Spending
Robert Pincus has been accused of frivolous spending on luxury cars and homes while overbilling clients for his services. Pincus, who has previously served as a custodian in legal cases, is known for his lavish lifestyle and has faced suspicion from clients such as TransPerfect, which was reportedly billed over $15 million in court fees by Pincus.
In April 2020, Pincus made headlines by purchasing a $2.85 million luxury apartment in Washington D.C. The apartment was previously owned by soccer superstar Wayne Rooney. These allegations of excessive spending and overbilling have raised concerns about Pincus’s financial practices and judgment.
Conflict of Interest With The Delaware Court
There has been much discussion and media coverage about the existence of a “Delaware Boys Club,” consisting of Robert Pincus, Andre Bouchard, and Leo Strine. Bouchard, who formerly worked at Skadden Arps alongside Pincus, is a former Chancellor of the Delaware Chancery Court and Strine is the current Chief Justice and a former intern for Bouchard. Pincus and Bouchard have a long-standing friendship that goes beyond their professional connections, leading some to question whether their relationship represents a conflict of interest. Pincus’s role as custodian in the TransPerfect case has been particularly controversial, with many pointing to his close relationship with Bouchard as a potential source of bias. These connections have caused an uproar in the Chancery Court and have raised concerns about the integrity of the legal process.
Robert Pincus Controversies In The Media
Robert Pincus’ controversial actions are no stranger to media attention. National, local, and industry media have reported on his actions.