Both Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, have boasted that they are being transparent in revealing the cases they have handled in their legal careers. But neither candidate has produced a full list of clients, and both have dribbled out the information in recent days in ways that make it difficult for the media and the public to vet.
The issue has become a flashpoint in the campaign as Brown has tried to undermine Warren’s reputation as a consumer advocate by pointing to her work for two corporate clients.
Warren, meanwhile, has more recently countered that Brown has not been forthcoming about his work as a real estate lawyer, and needs to explain how that work may have intersected with his position as a state lawmaker in the years before he was elected to the US Senate in 2010.
After days of indicating he would release a full list of clients, the Brown campaign gave the Globe a partial list at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. In an e-mail, the campaign promised that it was working on a full list of corporate clients, but insisted that a preliminary list of two title insurance companies, three banks, and two mortgage companies represented “the overwhelming majority of the work he did” while serving as a title agent and real estate closing attorney in Wrentham for about 25 years. His noncorporate work related primarily to wills and trusts, the campaign said.
Warren, a Harvard Law School bankruptcy specialist, released a list of 13 cases Monday night, just 15 minutes before the start of her second debate with Brown. Her campaign described those often complex cases in brief, flattering terms. But the list did not include all the clients Warren has consulted with or represented over the years that may not have appeared on court dockets.
Instead, Warren’s list was partial. She included all clients she represented since 2008, information that was already public in disclosure forms she filed when she went to Washington to lead a congressional panel and then serve in the Obama administration.
The cases she included from before 2008 were those already available from other publicly searchable databases, when she represented a client in court.
That meant her list excluded cases in which she may have consulted or served clients in other ways. A 2002 affidavit, first posted on the conservative blog Legal Insurrection, shows examples of some of those consulting clients not mentioned in Monday night’s release. That affidavit shows that among them were Dow Chemical “in the early days of the Dow Corning bankruptcy,” according to Warren’s 2002 affidavit, filed as part of another case. The campaign confirmed that Warren, an expert in bankruptcy trusts, consulted for the company, but did not provide details, citing attorney client privilege. In that period, the company set up a trust to pay plaintiffs who claimed in lawsuits that silicone breast implants had led to health problems.
Warren’s campaign would not say why it would not disclose the full list of her clients.
Their partial release of the Harvard professor’s cases moments before the debate was timed to do two things: meet a challenge Brown gave her last week to reveal all of her clients, and to challenge Brown to release his clients, so she could gain the offensive during the televised face off Monday night.
Brown has maintained he has not held anything back about his own legal work. But before releasing a partial list of clients Tuesday, he had offered only broad parameters — none in writing — about his 25-year legal career. He said at a press conference last Thursday that he served as a judge advocate general in the military and that he has also maintained a small real estate practice, run out of his home for the last seven to nine years. But in some years, Brown has earned more than $100,000 from that practice, according to public disclosure forms he filed with the state when he was a state legislator.
“My legal practice is pretty simple,” Brown said on Thursday. “I go to people’s houses. I do real estate closings and as a title agent,” he added, before naming some, but not all, of his corporate clients.
Brown then said he would double-check the information when he got home and update the public on Friday, which he did not do.
During Monday night’s debate, moderator David Gregory mentioned that Warren had released a list of her clients, without realizing it was only partial, and asked Brown why he had not done so.
“I did, actually,” Brown insisted. “I released it about a week ago. I’m a real estate attorney representing small banks, out of a home office. So yeah, I did that last week.”
Warren then pointed out that there was no list, and suggested he had something to hide.
Brown has made an effort to contrast his work as a small title attorney with Warren’s work as a “hired gun” for large corporations, including LTV Steel, which was working to avoid paying into a fund for retired coal miners’ health care benefits. “I’ve never done any foreclosures or any subprime mortgages,” Brown told reporters Tuesday during an appearance in Worcester, according to footage from the event. “To compare what I do as a JAG attorney and as a small real estate closing attorney from Wrentham, it’s kind of laughable.”
Bierman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman