Laura Pendergest-Holt, Stanford International Bank’s chief investment officer, was named in a criminal complaint in February that alleges she obstructed a proceeding by failing to testify truthfully to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, she has sued a lawyer who helped her prepare for that testimony. On March 27, Pendergest-Holt filed a malpractice complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that names as defendants the lawyer, Thomas V. Sjoblom, a partner in Proskauer Rose in Washington, D.C. and New York, and his New York-based firm. Pendergest-Holt, a Mississippi resident, alleges in Laura Pendergest-Holt v. Thomas V. Sjoblom, et al., that she “reasonably and actually believed” the defendants were representing her and protecting her interests when she gave testimony to the SEC on Feb. 10, 2009, but instead the defendants acted in the best interest of SIB Chairman Allen Stanford and the Stanford companies. “Indeed, unbeknownst to Plaintiff, the night before Sloblom met with Plaintiff to allegedly prepare her for her testimony before the SEC, Sjoblom had solicited a multi-million dollar retainer from Stanford to represent Stanford personally,” Pendergest-Holt alleges in the complaint. She alleges, among several things, that at no time did the defendants inform her: they were not representing her personal interests or that she should have her own counsel, she had the option of not appearing at the proceeding, the interests of her employer were adverse to her interests, and there was no attorney-client privilege for communications between her and the defendants. “Further, it is obvious now that Defendant’s actions were a clear attempt to protect other principals within the Stanford Group, to the detriment of Plaintiff’s interests,” Pendergest-Holt alleges. Pendergest-Holt, who is not a lawyer, brings a claim of legal malpractice and professional negligence against the defendants, along with a claim of breach of fiduciary duty. She seeks actual damages in excess of $20 million, along with punitive damages. Sjoblom could not immediately be reached for comment, but the firm issued a statement today: “We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in the appropriate forum.” The criminal complaint issued on Feb. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleges Pendergest-Holt violated 18 U.S.C. §1505 by obstructing a proceeding when she failed to testify truthfully under oath to the SEC on Feb. 10 in Fort Worth and on Feb. 17 in Memphis.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys