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How Eminent Lawyer Joshua Wright's Shady Past Caught Up With Him

By Vaidehi Mehta, Esq. | Last updated on

You may not have heard of Joshua Wright. Up until recently, he was a professor of law at George Mason. Before that, he was a respected authority on anti-trust law and a mover and shaker for big tech companies. For years, he had some morally questionable practices in his advocacy and romantic life, but his sketchy past has finally caught up with him.

A Promising Start

A San Diego native, he was a JD-Ph.D. in economics at the UCLA School of Law. After law school, he clerked for a federal district judge in California and then made a relatively early leap into legal academia. He joined the faculty of George Mason’s law school, now called Antonin Scalia Law School. During that time, he had a brief stint working for the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC)  Bureau of Competition.

In 2013, he was recommended by Mitch McConnell and appointed by Obama to serve as a Commissioner at the FTC. FTC Commissioners are responsible for setting policy, enforcing laws, and overseeing FTC activities. So, while Wright wasn't a staff attorney or working in any other specific legal role within the FTC, he did hold a leadership position with broader authorities.

Double Dealing

During his two years at the FTC, Wright made a lot of decisions that smelled to some like foul play. There was a conflict of interest in a case against Google since Google had funded Wright’s previous research and he had questionable alliances based on his history. He had to recuse himself from cases involving Google. Nonetheless, he used his vote as commissioner to defend companies such as Google, Facebook, and Qualcomm, another tech company. Both companies had donated to the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University. Records from George Mason show that Google donated $200,000 to the center during Wright’s first year on the Commission.

Later, after an investigation, the FTC inspector general’s office concluded that Wright violated federal law and ethics rules multiple times throughout his short stint at the FTC and afterward. On at least six different occasions, Wright met or attempted to meet with FTC officials to encourage them to settle a lawsuit that had been announced against Qualcomm.

Watchdog org Revolving Door Project filed an ethics complaint against Wright in a letter to FTC officials. They wrote, “Having worked on the Qualcomm case while serving on the Commission, Wright was legally barred from lobbying any officials on it. To make matters worse, Wright was, at the time, working for one of the law firms representing Qualcomm before the FTC. Further, the think tank he leads — the Global Antitrust Institute (GAI) — receives substantial funding from Qualcomm, including a donation less than two months before the above-referenced communications occurred.”

But Wright's conflicts of interest weren't just limited to his job in anti-trust — as it turns out, he had plenty of time for that in his personal life, too.

Entanglements with Female Law Students

Later, when he was at the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Wright was asked if he'd been having an inappropriate office romance with a young associate. Wright initially denied it, but the woman in question, Lindsey Edwards, came forward. She told an investigator for the law firm that she’d begun the affair with Wright when she was a law student at George Mason, and Wright was a professor. He’d purported to have helped her land the position at Wilson Sonsini, where the two continued the affair.

Edwards was only the tip of the iceberg. Another was Angela Landry, current counsel at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and former attorney advisor at the FTC. Yet another was current Kirkland & Ellis partner Elyse Dorsey. Both were students of Wright’s at George Mason. Last August, both came forward in interviews with media outlets with similar allegations against Wright. Dorsey, who had been Wright’s research assistant while at GM, had previously filed a complaint with the university in 2021.

Both Landry and Dorsey became successful lawyers within antitrust law, Wright’s area of expertise. The women said that after they graduated from law school, they continued to engage in sexual relationships with Wright “because they feared the professional repercussions of spurning a powerful figure in antitrust.” The number of women who have accused Wright of improper sexual relations has totaled at least eight by now.

The same month, George Mason investigated the misconduct allegations, after which they told Wright they were ready to begin a termination proceeding. Instead, Wright promptly resigned from his tenured faculty position. In September, the university announced that it had revised its policy to prohibit any “intimate, sexual, or other type of romantic or amorous encounter or association” between students and school faculty, employees, or volunteers.

A SLAPP in the Face

But Wright did not leave quietly. Soon after, he filed a lawsuit against Dorsey and Landry, alleging defamation. He sought $108 million from the women, claiming that the sexual relationships had been consensual.

In response, Dorsey and Landry SLAPPed him with a counterclaim. They pointed out that Wright failed to point to any false statements that they had made, which is essential for a defamation suit. Instead of disputing the actions they accuse him of, the women said, his lawsuit goes out of the way to disparage and belittle them and open them up to public ridicule. They brought their counterclaims under Virginia’s anti-SLAPP ("strategic litigation against public participation") statute, saying that this type of punishment for protected free speech is what anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent.

Surprise, Joshua: two wrongs don't make you right. After a long career getting away with many shady deeds within the government, academia, and the private sector, Wright's reputation has finally caught up to him.

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