Thursday 22 March 2018 4:41 pm

Legal boss sent sexually explicit messages to woman he approached as part of Christian outreach programme

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The boss of one the world’s largest law firms by revenue resigned this week after engaging in “communications of a sexual nature” with a woman he approached as part of a Christian outreach programme.

Bill Voge, the chair of US law firm Latham & Watkins, resigned the from the $3bn (£2.14bn) firm this week as a result of the scandal.

Legal website Law360 reported that Voge, who is married, left the firm after sending sexually explicit text messages to a woman he had approached on behalf of a Christian men’s group.

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According to the report Voge, who split his time between the US and the firm’s Bishopsgate offices, contacted the woman in September offering to help her with “Christian reconciliation” on behalf of Christian men’s group the New Canaan society where he was a board member.

Although the two never met, the relationship developed to a point where the two were exchanging sexually explicit text messages.

Speaking to Law360 the woman said Voge tried to get her to visit him in his hotel room.

The relationship between the two deteriorated and the woman contacted a number of partners at Latham, Voge’s attorney Terry Ekl and members of Voge’s family, detailing the relationship between the two and sharing the explicit text messages.

Ekl and Voge reportedly dispute the woman’s version of events and said she had engaged in a campaign to smear his reputation. They also said that his actions were out of character and that he had never been accused of inappropriate behaviour before.

Ekl sent the woman a cease-and-desist letter on cyberstalking and harassment grounds and threatened legal action if she did not stop contacting Voge and his family.

Although contact between Voge and the woman broke down in November, he continued to be in contact with her husband in the month’s that followed.

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According to messages seen by Law360 Voge said that his behaviour “was sinful, but not a crime”.

He also said that the woman would go to jail and that he would personally witness her arrest.

“It is not threats about jail. She will be in jail!!!” Voge wrote according to the website.

The New Canaan Society is a men-only Christian group that provides a “safe space” and “gives guys a place to form deep friendships”.

“We are a group of men who gather together to encourage each other in friendship and faith and to support each other to be better husbands, fathers — and better men,” its website said.

Voge resigned from the Board of the New Canaan Society in November.

He stepped down from his leadership position at Latham on Tuesday and retired from the firm’s partnership with immediate effect.

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He said in a statement: “It is with great sorrow that I step down as chair and managing partner of Latham & Watkins. I made a personal mistake for which I bear considerable fault and humiliation. I deeply regret my lapse of judgment and I am sorry for the distress and embarrassment I have caused my family, friends, and colleagues.”

Latham issued a statement on Tuesday but would not provide further comments as new details of the circumstances surrounding Voge's resignation emerged.

"Mr Voge’s conduct did not involve the firm, any of its clients, or its personnel. Mr Voge engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, the executive committee concluded was not befitting the leader of the firm," its statement said.

Energy partner Voge was based in Latham’s City office until 2014 when he was elected to lead the firm.

He was one of Latham’s most senior partners and had held leadership positions including head of the firm’s finance practice and co-chair of its project finance group.

In its financial results for 2017 Latham announced revenue of just over $3bn, the first law firm to achieve that milestone, while profits per partner were $3.25m.

Latham said that vice-chairs Ora Fisher and London-based Richard Trobman have stepped in as interim co-chairs of the firm.