By Dan Brillman
Oct 19 (Reuters) - Law firm DLA Piper, castigated by two
U.S. lawmakers for representing a Chinese telecommunication
equipment f i rm, has fired back with a letter criticizing the
representatives' words and actions.
In September, U.S. Representatives Frank Wolf, a Republican
from Virginia, and Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina,
took the rare step of singling out DLA Piper for its work for
ZTE Corporation, China's second-largest telecom equipment
ZTE, which is seeking to make inroads in the U.S. market,
has been the subject of an 11-month congressional investigation
into possible security threats posed by the company because of
potential interference by the Chinese government.
Amid that investigation, the lawmakers on Sept. 13 sent DLA
Piper a three-page letter accusing the firm of "(valuing) the
retainer of one contract over the legitimate cyber-security and
supply chain concerns of the United States."
DLA Piper had declined to comment publicly on the reprimands
at the time, and legal experts characterized the letter as
unlikely to have much impact on the firm. "It's kind of Congress
popping off without much responsibility," Claude Barfield of the
American Enterprise Institute told Reuters in September.
But the firm responded quietly in a letter dated Sept. 14
and signed by DLA Piper managing partner Frank Conner. DLA Piper
"represents all of our clients in an ethical and straightforward
manner," and for Wolf and Myrick "to suggest otherwise is
irresponsible," wrote Conner. He added that the pair's
"assertions against our client, ZTE Corporation, are similarly
Conner also said the firm would continue representing ZTE
during hearings. "Our client is appearing, as requested, and
they are entitled to the best legal counsel to them, which we
will provide," Conner wrote in his letter, which was obtained by
Reuters. DLA Piper declined further comment.
A spokesman for Wolf said his "concern isn't with U.S. firms
representing foreign companies, but rather about DLA Piper's
relationship with and lobbying activities on behalf of a company
that's facing serious scrutiny by the U.S. government." A
spokesman for Myrick echoed those comments.
In April, Wolf had also sent a critical letter to Sidley
Austin suggesting the firm should drop client Huawei, China's
largest telecom, which was the subject of the congressional
inquiry along with ZTE.
Sidley managing partner Carter Phillips answered Wolf'sletter with a one-line response that merely acknowledged receipt
but did not address any of the issues Wolf raised.
"Thank you for your letter of April 25, 2012. We understand
your concerns and appreciate your bringing them to the firm's
attention," Phillips wrote. The firm did not respond to a
request for further comment.
The House last week issued a report recommending that the
U.S. intelligence community "remain vigilant and focused" on
threats to national security, and that the U.S. business
community "consider the long-term security risks associated with
doing business with either ZTE or Huawei." The law firms were
not mentioned in the report.
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