Lawyers Acting on Behalf of Clients Without Their Knowledge

One of the strange things about the recent revelations of DNC/Clinton Campaign funding of the Fusion research (which produced the Trump dossier) is that at the time John Podesta testified before congress that he had no knowledge of who had paid for this research, the man who actually made the payments - on his behalf - was sitting right next to him in his capacity as lawyer. Random cite

But perhaps that’s only optics. What’s SOP in such situations? If a lawyer acts on behalf of a client and the question of who did this act becomes an issue, does the lawyer have an obligation to inform the client of this? Does it depend on whether it’s in the client’s interest to know? (In this case, it might be in Podesta’s interest to be able to plead ignorance, although that’s arguable since it would look bad for him when it eventually comes out. So who makes that judgment?)

More specifically in a general case, how detailed would a client need or typically know about what the lawyer or his investigators are doing? IIRC there was the case in Hollywood of the PI who was wiretapping etc., completely illegal. I assume the lawyers who hired him did not say to their clients “now I’m going to hire a guy who will break the wiretap laws on your behalf”. The lawyer himself probably didn’t want to know.

OK. But suppose the police start asking the client who hired the PI, and the same lawyer is still representing that same client, is it SOP for him to have his client testify that he knows nothing about it all the while the lawyer knows that he himself did it on the guys behalf and not inform him?

I work in insurance defense, which means I get hired by insurance companies to represent people who get sued for whatever reason. In my state insurance companies can settle claims without consent of their insureds - so in some cases I’m hired to represent the interests of people where the insurance company has already made a deal with the opposing side and just wants me to sort out the paperwork. In those cases I often have no contact with my clients aside from sending them a letter saying that the claim against them is resolved, here’s a release for your records, call me if you have any questions (they never do). Yet I’m still acting to protect their interests in such cases.

While it certainly could be true that Podesta could be lying, it is also true that bosses don’t know everything their subordinates are doing.

My guess is that Podesta is not lying. But my question is not about Podesta but about the lawyer and what’s SOP in such circumstances.

That was now imprisoned Anthony Pellicano.

It was not done on Podesta’s behalf, so I don’t see the point of the thread, but in general, it’s going to depend a lot on what the lawyer is doing. Some people have lawyers that do all kinds of things for them that aren’t related to practicing law.

I am still learning about what did and didn’t happen in this exact case, and it’s very confusing.But I have a point of plain logic to suggest for your consideration, based on just what has been said about this here.

The lawyer in such situations has more than one entity with legal concerns to deal with, including themselves. In addition, there are positive legal reasons to NOT inform the primary client about everything, just as there are often reasons why the lawyer would NOT want the client to completely inform THEM about everything. In fact, it can be imperative that a client SPECIFICALLY not be thoroughly informed about all processes involved with their interests, even when entirely legal procedures and actions are involved, because that protects the client from being accused of trying to manipulate the legal proceedings, and ACQUIRE legal culpability that they didn’t have before. In the main, the SOP I have observed in most legal situations, is that maintaining legal “insulation” is the most primary of all characteristics of all legal processes. This is to avoid the PROCESSES, affecting the legal status of everyone and everything involved.

I’ve never heard of the Legal System considering a legal procedure as reproachable, except for frivolous lawsuits. Can you give an example?

If nothing else, a lawyer is going to do some things their client doesn’t know about just as a matter of practicality. If I knew everything that lawyers do, I wouldn’t be hiring a lawyer, I’d be one myself.

It wasn’t done on his personal behalf, but it was done on behalf of the Clinton campaign, which was run by Podesta.

Of course. But the question is when it becomes relevant to know who did it, does the lawyer still keep it a secret?

I don’t think the question is really about lawyers as much as it is about principals and their agents.

In most jurisdictions, the act of paying for some service as part of a larger employment relationship wouldn’t itself be privileged or work product unless it was related to giving legal advice. So having your lawyer sitting next to you and knowing the answer is no different from having your accountant or administrative assistant.

As for what agents must disclose to their principals, that is generally a question of state law and varies quite a bit from place to place.

Not sure what the whole OP is about. Number one rule with lawyers (or one of them…?) is don’t answer a question that hasn’t been asked. So his lawyer did not pipe up and say “that was me”. he wasn’t asked.

Assuming most likely Podesta is telling the truth, what did you expect? Did you think that the lawyer was going to tell him before the questioning - “by the way, that thing you know nothing about - that was me who paid…” Any pre-appearance briefing would go over strictly what Podesta knew, not confuse him with new information.

If Podesta is sitting there answering questions, it’s neither smart nor appropriate for the lawyer to chime in with his own contributions. He wasn’t asked, and the inevitable followup would be “why are you telling us this now?” Nine times out of ten, the goal of such hearings is more about publicity than about finding the facts.

I wouldn’t expect that the lawyer could on his own initiative tell the committee about what he did for Podesta/DNC.

But the question is whether he should have informed Podesta about what he had done once it became an issue or seemed likely to become one.

It really depends on who the client is and what your instructions are.

I’m not familiar with the Podesta case you mention, but from the little bit I read, Podesta wasn’t the client. The Clinton Campaign was the client.

So, hypothetically, if the lawyer gets called into a meeting with Hilary, and she says, " I want you to start doing some dirt-digging about Trump and Russia. Here’s your budget. You report only to me and Bill. No-one else is to know."

The lawyer says, “What about Podesta?”

Hilary says, “He’s not to know about this. No-one else in the campaign is to know.”

Now the lawyer has instructions, from his client. So he never tells Podesta, because that would be in breach of his instructions.

Then the story breaks and people start asking questions. The lawyer goes back to Hilary and asks, “Should I tell Podesta about this? He is the campaign chair. Shouldn’t he know about it?”

Hilary says “No. No-one but Bill and I know about this. Keep it that way.”

Again, the lawyer has his instructions, so he doesn’t tell Podesta.

Does your bosses lawyer inform you of everything he’s doing?

In that scenario, yes. But I assume it works the other way around with campaign managers.

Meaning that Podesta, or someone who reported to him, would be the one who hired the law firm. Among the law firm’s responsibilities was doing opposition research on Trump, which happens to have included hiring Fusion and Steele. The fact that Fusion/Steele were hired was a detail that Podesta would possibly not have been informed of at the time. But now it’s relevant.

I agree - the lawyer was hired by the campaign, not Hilalry personally. Therefore, the campaign - i.e. the “CEO” of the campaign, as well of the candidate, has a right to know and is not excluded from knowing due to due to privilege.

However - if he hadn’t been informed when it was active, what is the point of telling him later? Especially if the question is - “what did you know and when did you know it?” If you tell him something a week before the hearings, what is his obligation now? Run out and tell the committee ahead of time? Call the ethics commissioner? Don’t know if the action was ethical or not? Basically, telling him doesn’t help and in fact complicates matters. Why tell him? Whether he looks stupid is a matter of opinion. If he didn’t know he didn’t know, and it’s not stupid of him not to know that detail. So don’t say anything.

The point would be that after he denied knowledge of it and it came out anyway he looks like a guy who might have been lying and/or trying to hide something.