In Case of Shkreli and Lawyer, Finger-Pointing Comes First

Unlike many defendants who stay out of the spotlight while awaiting trial, Mr. Shkreli has embraced a public role to proclaim his innocence. He recently spoke to Harvard University undergraduates, an event that drew protesters and was disrupted by a false fire alarm. A program in January at the University of California, Davis, at which he was to appear with Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing commentator, was canceled when large protests occurred.

Mr. Greebel was largely unknown to the public until the charges last year linked him to his notorious client. Mr. Greebel, who was a partner at the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman until moving to another firm in 2015, had been the lead outside counsel and corporate secretary for Retrophin when Mr. Shkreli was its chief executive.

Mr. Greebel is accused only of participating in the last phase of Mr. Shkreli’s conduct related to the use of Retrophin’s assets, and does not face charges of making misstatements to the hedge fund investors.

Where the case devolves into finger-pointing is Mr. Shkreli’s claim that he only followed the advice of Retrophin’s corporate lawyers, and therefore did not have any intent to defraud. His motion for a separate trial argues that Mr. Shkreli paid $10 million in legal fees to Katten Muchin — although that claim overlooks the point that it was the company actually paying the lawyers — and he “followed faithfully” the legal advice given by Mr. Greebel and other lawyers.

This is a classic “advice of counsel” defense, which requires showing that the client provided the lawyer with complete information and adhered to the directions provided for how to act. It is a difficult defense to establish because lawyers are usually unwilling to concede they provided faulty advice that led a client into wrongdoing.

That is exactly the position Mr. Greebel takes, asserting that he was misled by Mr. Shkreli…

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