A nice example of Spitzer sleaze from two years ago in the New York Sun.

A company under investigation by Eliot Spitzer’s office last year offered one of the attorney general’s closest friends, Lloyd Constantine [’69], $1 million to attend a single meeting with Mr. Spitzer in the hopes that his last-minute intervention would lead to a lower settlement, Mr. Constantine said.

Mr. Constantine, a prominent antitrust lawyer and former law partner of Mr. Spitzer’s, outright refused the firm’s extraordinary offer, which took place in mid-2005, he said. The offer was made “right before” a large settlement was announced between the firm and Mr. Spitzer’s office.

Mr. Constantine declined to identify the company, saying it was confidential information. He said, however, the company was not in the insurance industry, which Mr. Spitzer had been investigating while the offer was made.

The company, Mr. Constantine said, was asking him to attend one meeting with Mr. Spitzer “and use my powers of persuasion to persuade the attorney general that they should not be sued or that the settlement be a lower amount.”

Why would anyone think that Constantine/Spitzer could be, in essence, bribed? I can’t imagine. Sophisticated business folks can be so silly sometimes! Related discussion here. More below.

The company’s efforts to set up a meeting between Messrs. Constantine and Spitzer unfolded over three conversations with representatives of the company. The company first approached Mr. Constantine and asked if he would meet with the attorney general. After he refused, a representative contacted him again, but this time said he could name his price. Days later, Mr. Constantine said, he picked up the phone again and received a final offer: “How about a million dollars?” Once more, he declined.

The sort of offer described by Mr. Constantine in an interview with The New York Sun yesterday is an unusual occurrence, though not illegal, lawyers contacted by the Sun said. Lawyers might earn $1 million in fees for representing a firm in a matter before Mr. Spitzer, but to do so they’d ordinarily have to work hundreds of hours and bill for the work of many associates.The unusual offer sheds light on a legal strategy employed by vulnerable firms and companies that find themselves in Mr. Spitzer’s sights. The company that reached out to Mr. Constantine was evidently convinced that access — even at the price of $1 million — helps in battles with Mr. Spitzer.

With Mr. Constantine, who has donated the legal maximum of $50,100 to Mr. Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign, the company was seeking no ordinary access.

The two lawyers have known each other since 1982 when Mr. Spitzer was serving as an intern in the New York attorney general’s office, where Mr. Constantine was in charge of antitrust enforcement. Mr. Spitzer was a founding partner of Mr. Constantine’s boutique antitrust law firm, and he tapped him to lead his transition team after he was elected attorney general in 1998. They are also longtime tennis partners.

Mr. Constantine also represented Aon, an insurance broker, when it was under investigation by Mr. Spitzer’s office, which alleged that Aon’s brokers directed clients to insurance companies that paid more lucrative contingent commissions.

According to a new biography of Mr. Spitzer, “Spoiling for a Fight: the Rise of Eliot Spitzer,” Aon interrupted Mr. Constantine’s vacation in New Zealand when the attorney general was bearing down on the company. “Get back here, the Aon executives said; Spitzer wants to settle this case right now, but we don’t want to buy a pig in a poke,” the book states. Aon ultimately agreed to a $190 million settlement, which was $660 million less than what Aon’s competitor Marsh & McLennan had to pay in its settlement with Mr. Spitzer.

Mr. Constantine said he was disappointed by the Aon settlement and said he “failed” to convince the attorney general’s office of the company’s and its CEO Patrick Ryan’s innocence.

From Mr. Constantine’s point of view, the calculation of companies like the one that contacted him is “stupid,” he said. If it senses that one of its targets is trying to buy influence, Mr. Spitzer’s office would more likely get tougher and pursue a steeper settlement, he said.

“I said you have it exactly wrong,” Mr. Constantine said, referring to his conversation with the unnamed company.

Sure.

Many companies appear to disagree with Mr. Constantine’s assessment of the attorney general’s office’s susceptibility to influence. Mr. Constantine said his firm receives several calls a week from companies doing battle with Mr. Spitzer who are looking to retain his services. He said that on Monday he took a call from a company “concerned that the attorney general’s office is not moving as quickly as they should on this particular matter.” He turned them down.

Why does he think they keep calling?

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