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Moroco RPCV Eric D. Green is Master Mediator
Moroco RPCV Eric D. Green is Master Mediator
For a Master Mediator, Just Another Tough Assignment
By MICHAEL BRICK
Standing between two clashing Berber tribes high in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, unable to comprehend their language but fully aware of their rifles, a man learns to negotiate quickly.
So began the mediation career of Eric D. Green, who later helped bring the Microsoft (news/quote) antitrust case to a settlement and who was named on Friday to do the same in the lawsuits against Arthur Andersen.
The impasse in Morocco was in 1969, and he was a young Peace Corps volunteer. One day a high administrative official of the region asked Mr. Green — for reasons still unknown — to pack up all his maps and travel with him to meet two rival groups of armed tribesmen. After many cups of tea, and at the end of a three-hour speech by the official, the peasants turned to Mr. Green, with his colorful but hopelessly out-of-date maps, to settle their land dispute. So Mr. Green stood and pointed down a slope to a tree and then to a rock, and he intoned the names of the tribes.
"I drew a line pretending that the colored maps showed this, and a hue and cry went up" as the tribes affirmed his quickly defined boundaries, he said. The regional official who had had chosen him "laughed all the way home," he said.
Again, speed is clearly desired in his current assignment, which will require him to begin talks in the Dallas area today.
Mr. Green, who declined to discuss the Andersen case, said he had not even seen the order for mediation late Friday evening. He was again in the mountains, this time skiing in Utah.
What he learned from that early experience, and what he now does, according to lawyers who have worked with him, sounds simple. He relentlessly and aggressively draws out what the parties in a mediation want and need, working all night if necessary.
"He cuts to the chase," said Kevin O'Connor, an assistant attorney general of Wisconsin, a state that signed the Microsoft settlement deal that Mr. Green helped reach. "He wants to know what everybody wants right away."
A mediator's job is to find common ground and reach a deal, not to think of the consequences or adjudicate. Yet Mr. Green's critics say he is prone to pushing too hard to reach a deal at any cost.
"He's very, very smart, but behind his demeanor lies a great deal of arrogance," said Jim Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine, one of the states that decided not to settle with Microsoft. Although Mr. Tierney has never met Mr. Green, he said he was displeased with the terms of the Microsoft settlement and now represents corporate clients who are similarly unsatisfied. "His interest will be completely in, `Can I bring the parties together?' Maybe that's what a genius mediator does, but the public shouldn't be fooled for a minute that it has to do with what's just or right," he said.
Mr. Green, 55, was born in Sewickley, Pa., attended public schools there and graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School. He runs a mediation firm called Resolutions Inc. and teaches at the Boston University School of Law.
"I love solving problems," he said in an interview Friday. "I love bringing people together."
He says he sits the parties down in separate rooms and walks back and forth. Sometimes he calls them all into the same room. Sometimes he sends them back to their rooms.
This time, he is assigned to negotiate between Andersen and four different groups with similar claims or potential claims against the firm. Two groups are people who have sued over the way Andersen handled the Enron Corporation (news/quote)'s audits, the third is Enron itself and the fourth group is Enron's creditors.
Facing Mr. Green is the fact that Andersen, which is also losing its ability to pay as its clients and affiliates slip away, has been indicted on a criminal charge of obstruction of justice and is scheduled to be tried in less than two months.
Mr. Green's specialty is complex cases, but still, the Enron and Andersen cases present a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
"Catching up requires you to be a very fast, aggressive learner," he said. "I can soak things up fast, but I also can't get rid of things."
One thing he still seems to dwell on is his most famous accomplishment, bringing the Justice Department, nine states and Microsoft to a settlement of the antitrust case. Since the agreement was reached, several companies have sued Microsoft, saying the terms were too weak. More troublesome to Mr. Green is the fact that nine other states refused to sign and are pursuing stronger remedies.
"I haven't forgotten about those nine states," he said. "I'm not done with them if they want to talk."