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In a series of email exchanges, Lifshitz downplayed the significance of the charitable trusts' investments in Colbart Birnet. He said any suggestion of a conflict of interest involving himself, or his law firm, is simply wrong.
"I do not have any interest -- minority or otherwise -- in Colbart Birnet L.P. A charity of which I am a trustee does,'' says Lifshitz. "I do not benefit from the charity and I am not a beneficial owner of it."
Lifshitz says the law firm recently contacted Roy Simon, a law professor who specializes in legal ethics, about its dealings with Colbart Birnet, and the professor "reiterated our advice that the firms' conduct fully complied with all ethical and legal obligations."Simon, the Howard Lichtenstein distinguished professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University School of Law, says he sees no potential for a conflict of interest involving the investments by the charitable trusts in Colbart Birnet. Simon says he was recently retained by Bernstein Liebhard to advise it on the Colbart Birnet situation. "This is not something that worries me from a conflict perspective,'' says Simon. "I can't understand why this would have an impact on his judgment.'' Simon says he sees no potential quid pro quo in the investments by the charitable trusts because Colbart Birnet was a client of the law firm before the investments were made.