A lawyer's alleged double life could screw up one of the biggest antitrust settlements in US history
Until recently, Keila Ravelo was a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, where she primarily dealt with MasterCard. She and her husband have been charged with fabricating paperwork for legal services to defraud MasterCard, her law firm, and another law firm out of $5 million.
But more damningly, Willkie Farr & Gallagher found while it was investigating the alleged theft that Ravelo received confidential information in emails from an opposing lawyer in a pair of antitrust lawsuits retailers brought against big credit card companies, according to the Journal, which cited court records.
That lawyer, Gary Friedman, was a longtime friend of Ravelo, and represented the merchants who were suing the credit card companies, according to court records cited by the Journal.
One of those lawsuits led to a record-breaking $6 billion settlement in a lawsuit accusing MasterCard and Visa of conspiring to fix fees that retailers could charge customers, as the Associated Press reported. The other lawsuit led to a smaller, $75 million settlement.
Now that these emails have been discovered, lawyers on both sides plan to file papers Tuesday questioning the veracity of the settlement, according to the Journal. Lawyers representing merchants in the case already filed papers last week.
MasterCard and American Express both said last month that they're confident the settlements will still stand, saying that Ravelo and Friedman didn't play an important enough role to justify their collapse.
However, earlier this month a judge rejected the $75 million settlement, citing text messages that Ravelo and Friedman, according to The New York Times. Those messages showed that Friedman consulted Ravelo on the settlement "every step along the way," the judge found.
The Times noted that the judge's decision "could have ripple effects" for the much bigger, $6 billion settlement, according to The Times.
In a separate case, Ravelo's husband, Melvin Feliz, is awaiting sentencing "after pleading guilty in February to plotting to transport more than 40 pounds of cocaine from California to New York," according to the Wall Street Journal. And on Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion in the case where he and Ravelo allegedly defrauded MasterCard and the law firms.
In a statement, Ravelo's lawyer said that Feliz "coercively demanded" Ravelo's actions. He also sought to distance her from her husband, saying that the two were estranged.
"The public must keep in mind that Feliz is a convicted drug trafficker and fraudster, facing a total of 14 years in federal prison, who deceived his wife and children in both his personal and business dealings for more than a decade," the statement said. "Unbeknownst to Ms. Ravelo, her estranged husband led a dual life, including having a secret second family and pretending to be a legitimate businessman."
We reached out to a representative for Ravelo's former firm, and we'll update this post with any comment we receive.
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