Growing Pains

14Jun16

While Morin was pulling pranks on Colson, he was also exceedingly busy with high-powered lawyering. By the mid-1960’s, Federated’s problems with the SEC were an almost constant source of work for Morin and his principal litigation partner, Joe Mitchell.

His relationship with Federated, and in particular Jack Donahue and his senior team, Dick Fisher, John McGonigle and Tom Donnelly, deepened – they were all highly intelligent and motivated men who shared strong conservative values and rigorous moral and ethical principles, but they also knew how to enjoy their work and each others’ company. By the early 1960’s, Donahue had developed (with good reason) enormous confidence in Morin’s legal acumen, his mental discipline, and most especially, his fearless pursuit of his client’s interests. Nowhere were these attributes demonstrated more emphatically, and more often, than in Federated’s seemingly endless showdowns with the enforcement and investigative staff of the SEC.

In the mid-1960’s, Federated’s assets under management fell below the minimum $1 million threshold, and the SEC enforcement people went after them with unusual zeal. During a tense, contentious conference, chief staff attorney Sidney Mendelsohn offered a settlement proposal: Federated could continue in business, but Jack Donahue would be barred from the securities industry for life. Morin sat at the far end of the conference table, his clients between him and Mendelsohn, eyeing the regulator inscrutably.

“Fuck you Sidney,” he told the chief counsel of the enforcement division. Mendelsohn’s suggestion infuriated him. The idea that this bureaucrat could accuse Jack Donahue, or any member of the Federated firm, of lacking integrity or honesty was inimical to what he knew of them. He demanded to proceed with an administrative hearing, which he zealously prosecuted with Joe Mitchell.

SEC was represented at the hearing by a man named “Weiner,” pronounced WY-ner. Throughout the proceedings, Mitchell steadfastly called the man WEE-ner, to his burgeoning annoyance. After two months of exhausting head-to-head battering, the SEC caved in. Morin offered them a cosmetic, face-saving fig leaf, but Federated and Donahue remained in business. Donahue’s loyalty had been placed in the right man. And Morin’s fearsome reputation among the SEC enforcement staff had been established.

Joe Mitchell’s status as a foil and partner in the firm changed dramatically one day in early 1966 when Morin received a telephone call from Joseph L. Tauro, who was chief legal counsel to Governor John Volpe (and a Brown classmate of Colson’s). Tauro told Morin that Volpe wanted to help the law firm by appointing Joe Mitchell to the Superior Court bench.

“Bullshit! I can’t afford to lose him!”

Tauro wasn’t taking no for an answer. “Think what this’ll do for his family.”

“Well, don’t put it on the basis that you’re doing us any favor because we don’t want to lose him, but if he wants it, then good enough.”

So after five good years of practicing with Gadsby & Hannah, in 1966 Joe Mitchell became only the fifth black man in Massachusetts history to serve in the judiciary.

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