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Great Moments

A Prince Among Men
Mark L. Dembert
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 2)

"That's fine," The Sphinx said, grasping for straws, "but I'm not sure if it's fair to subject the court reporter..." His voice trailed off.

Checkmate, Sphinx.

During the previous two weeks, I had seen the reporter make numerous trips down 50 floors in the elevator to take cigarette breaks. The court reporter was thrilled to have cigars smoked during the deposition, and she told The Sphinx so.

Where they found the crystal ashtray, I do not know, but we spent the next two hours in mental combat, blowing huge clouds of Hoyo de Monterrey smoke across the table.

I couldn't say at the time that the victory was any more than moral. The Spectre had not become one of the most savvy businessmen in the world for no reason and, cigars or not, he simply would not testify to anything damaging his side's interest.

As the case neared trial, however, I locked horns with The Sphinx over a potential settlement of the case. With the large amounts at stake in such disputes, a settlement would not be an unexpected conclusion. Settlements, however, require compromises, and warriors are loathe to compromise.

Informal discussions proved unproductive. The judge encouraged the hiring of a mediator, a former judge, to help bring the parties together. I thought the most likely outcome would be a settlement of about $1.75 million, so my co-counsel and I were evaluating whether to recommend acceptance of such a settlement.

After a long day of negotiations and several more days of telephone calls with each other and the mediator, the case settled for $4.25 million.

I would never claim that two cigars had any impact on the difference between the $1.75 million we expected and the $4.25 million we accepted. Even if my gamesmanship influenced the outcome, it is best to heed Sun-tzu and give the adversary a route to escape with honor.

At least I thought I was allowing him the escape route. The day after the settlement became final, The Sphinx sent me a box of Hoyos. Sometimes, I think it was a sign that we left some money on the table. On the other hand, you can never have too many Hoyos, so I have enjoyed every one. *


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