Mississippi Executive Wins $103 Million in Lawsuit Against Lawyer

October 28, 2010

A Mississippi businessman has been awarded $103 million in a lawsuit against the Chicago-based law firm that he accused of defrauding his oil and gas business.

Lavon Evans Jr. filed the lawsuit in Jones County Circuit Court in Mississippi in 2008. It sought $150 million in damages from attorney Joel Held, who worked at the Dallas office of the Baker & Mackenzie law firm.

Held represented one of Evans’ companies and manipulated documents and disclosed confidential information to benefit Reed Cagle, Evans’ partner in Laredo Energy Holdings LLC, the lawsuit claims, among other things.

Baker & McKenzie told The Hattiesburg American in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict and will appeal.

“We are confident we acted in a manner that was entirely consistent with our professional obligations and that no harm was done to the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said. “We will continue to argue our position vigorously and expect we will be vindicated. As this is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.”

Evans had no comment on the lawsuit. Cagle did not immediately respond to a message left at a listing for him in Colorado Springs.

Evans owns Evans Operating Mississippi and E&D Mississippi drilling company in Laurel, Miss.

He formed Laredo Energy Holdings LLC with Cagle in 2006 after the two had worked together for years drilling and operating oil and gas wells, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit claims Cagle introduced Evans to Held to discuss joint ventures and Held eventually became the lawyer for Laredo Energy Holdings.

Among the claims in the lawsuit:

Held allegedly withheld information that Cagle had no real assets to offer the joint business and his finances were insolvent.

Evans was listed as owner of the majority interest and all financial transactions required his consent, but Held allegedly used Evans’ property as collateral without permission for millions of dollars in loans that benefited Cagle.

Held misrepresented the ownership of Laredo and its subsidiaries, a drilling rig and other assets and intimidated Evans to force him to give up his majority interest in Laredo Energy.

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