A complaint filed in Washington federal district court last Friday accuses the government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea of stiffing Lanny J. Davis & Associates out of almost $142,000 for out-of-pocket legal services.
In February 2010, the West African government signed a contract with McDermott Will & Emery for assistance in “instituting comprehensive political, legal and economic reforms,” according to the complaint (PDF). The lead attorney was Lanny Davis, who was a McDermott partner at the time. Under the contract, Equatorial Guinea agreed to pay just over $2 million for legal services in four installments, from March 2010 through September 2011.
When Davis left McDermott in April 2010 to start his own firm, he took the Equatorial Guinea contract with him. According to the complaint, Davis assisted President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo with a draft of a public address delivered June 22, 2010. In the speech, Obiang committed to “reforms in the areas of resource management, social and economic development, legal institutions, relations with human rights organizations (including the Red Cross), and environmental conservation.”
Human rights groups for years have accused the Obiang regime of torture, murder and rampant corruption. In 2008, a writer for Slate.com called Obiang arguably Africa's worst dictator.
The complaint also accuses the African country of being late on its payments for legal services in establishing a behavior of delinquency.
The most costly charges in the invoice (PDF) are four trips to the African country, including airfare and hotel accommodations totaling $55,569. Other high-dollar expenses include $38,757 for professional consulting services, $13,405 for National Party Day expenses and $8,438 for AT&T Wireless roaming.
Davis called this suit "a straightforward case of breach of contract based on four trips to Africa. They didn't pay me for my out of pocket expenses. The reason I took the client was to help them transition to a democracy," he said.
Davis also said he had a meeting with South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who thanked Obiang in a letter (PDF) attached to the complaint. According to Davis, Tutu told him that the lobbyist's efforts could help change Africa.