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Norton Rose, Goodwin Procter, Milbank: Business of Law

Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, the transatlantic combination of London-based law firm Norton Rose LLP and U.S. law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP was completed yesterday as the firm announced its leadership.

The merger creates a 3,800-lawyer firm with more than 50 offices in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Middle East.

Peter Martyr will continue to lead the global executive management team and is joined by Fulbright’s former managing partner Kenneth Stewart. The firm’s global chairman is Adrian Ahern, based in Sydney.

“Norton Rose Fulbright has a strong business model and culture. We also have momentum,” Martyr said in a statement. “This combination endorses our position on the global stage. This is one of the largest transatlantic legal combinations completed to date and confirms Norton Rose Fulbright as a global legal practice. We have an exciting future ahead.”

In the U.S., the firm has more than 750 lawyers at 11 U.S. offices.

The combined firm, which operates under a Swiss verein, a corporate structure that allows the firms to keep separate profit pools, will rank among the top 10 wealthiest law firms with its combined gross revenues.

Norton Rose has lawyers across a range of practices. The firm said in a statement its key industry sector strengths are financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; technology and innovation; transport; and life sciences and health care.

Deals

Mid-America to Buy Colonial Properties in $2.2 Billion Deal

Goodwin Procter LLP was legal adviser to Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc. (MAA), a Memphis-based residential landlord, which agreed to buy Colonial Properties Trust (CLP) for about $2.2 billion in stock to expand as demand climbs for U.S. apartment rentals.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC also advised Mid-America. Burr & Forman LLP and Hogan Lovells LLP advised Colonial Properties. Burr & Forman partners Mike Atchison and Ed Hardin, who are outside co-general counsel for Colonial, worked on the deal. Burr partners Jack Stephenson and April Mason also worked on the deal.

Colonial investors will receive 0.36 newly issued Mid-America shares for each share of Colonial they own, the companies said in a statement yesterday. Based on Mid-America’s closing share price of $67.97 on May 31, that indicates a price of $24.47, about 11 percent more than Birmingham, Alabama-based Colonial’s last close.

Goodwin Procter’s deal team was led by Gil Menna, and included partners Yoel Krantz, Mark Opper, Craig Todaro and Neal Sandford on tax.

Baker Donelson’s partners include Robert J. DelPriore and Richard F. Mattern, corporate, and William H.D. Fones Jr., tax.

The Hogan Lovells team consisted of Washington corporate partners Paul Manca, Warren Gorrell, Joe Gilligan, and Washington tax partner Cristina Arumi.

Latham & Watkins LLP is advising JPMorgan in the transaction with a corporate team led by Orange County partner Charles Ruck, and Los Angeles partner Julian Kleindorfer.

The deal would create a real estate investment trust with about 85,000 rental units, primarily focused on the U.S. south. Demand for rental homes is rising among Americans who can’t qualify for a mortgage or don’t want to own property after the worst housing crash since the Great Depression. The nation’s apartment-vacancy rate was 4.3 percent in the first quarter, the lowest in more than a decade, according to Reis Inc. (REIS)

“The scale of the combined company will support accelerated growth,” Mid-America Chief Executive Officer H. Eric Bolton Jr. said in the statement. The merger will “drive higher margins as a result of synergies and advantages generated.”

Mid-America shareholders will own about 56 percent of the combined company’s equity with Colonial owners holding the rest. Bolton will be chairman and CEO, while Mid-America’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer will also assume those roles at the combined company.

For more, click here.

Moves

International Project Finance Partner to Join Milbank in Tokyo

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP announced that project finance lawyer Aled Davies, previously the head of Allen & Overy LLP’s Asia Pacific projects group, will join the firm in Tokyo in September.

Davies, who will be a member of Milbank’s global project finance group, recently advised on the Ichthys LNG project, a liquefied natural gas facility being developed in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Australia, the firm said. The $34 billion Ichthys LNG project is the largest project financing ever, the firm said.

In addition to his project work, Davies often advises clients on asset-based financings, including tax-based leasing of large drillships and other vessels used in energy exploration.

“We are fortunate to gain the talents of Aled Davies, who has led high-profile financings in every corner of the globe, with an emphasis on high-impact energy and natural resource development,” Milbank chairman Scott Edelman said in a statement. “His arrival also underscores our commitment to Japan, where we recently marked our 35th anniversary as the first international law firm in Tokyo.”

Milbank’s project finance practice teams has more than 100 lawyers, who closed on more than 140 project financings, raising more than $125 billion in the last three years, the firm said. Milbank is headquartered in New York and has 600 lawyers at 11 offices in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Herbert Smith Global Funds Partner Joins Bingham

Bingham McCutchen LLP is expanding its global funds practice with the addition of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s Thiha Tun as a partner in the London office.

Tun, who joins the firm in September, represents investment funds, investment managers and others in the funds industry. He works with private equity, real estate, infrastructure and hedge funds, the firm said. He will work closely with partner John Holton, who relocated his international funds practice to the London office from Boston in 2011.

“Thiha has built a strong practice that will augment our growing international funds and financial regulatory capabilities,” Bingham investment management practice group leader Roger Joseph said in a statement.

Bingham has about 1,000 lawyers in 14 offices in the U.S. Europe and Asia.

Akin Gump Adds Corporate Partner Chen in Beijing

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP added to its corporate practice in Asia with the hire of Chen Li as a partner in the firm’s Beijing office. She was previously at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.

Chen’s practice concentrates on outbound and cross-border mergers and acquisitions and foreign direct investment, with a focus on major Chinese state-owned enterprises.

“Outbound M&A is emerging as a key driver of growth and consolidation for Chinese companies,” Greg Puff, head of Akin Gump’s Asia practice said in a statement. “Li has proven skills helping Chinese companies navigate these transactions and a track record as a well-respected lawyer with a profound appreciation of her clients’ needs and goals.”

Akin Gump has more than 850 attorneys in offices throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Litigation

Apple Fights U.S. E-Books Pricing Claims in Antitrust Trial

Apple Inc. (AAPL), accused by the U.S. of being the ringleader in a conspiracy with publishers to fix prices of electronic books, went to trial in a case that will feature evidence from the company’s dead founder, Steve Jobs.

A lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department began his opening statement in Manhattan federal court yesterday in a rare antitrust trial to determine whether Apple orchestrated an illegal price-fixing agreement when it entered the e-books market in 2010 with the introduction of the iPad.

Apple and five of the six biggest U.S. publishers “consciously committed to a scheme to raise e-book prices throughout the industry” that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, Justice Department lawyer Lawrence Buterman told U.S. District Judge Denise Cote.

Apple claims it did nothing wrong and says it benefited consumers by bringing innovation and competition to an e-books market that was dominated by Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) Apple’s lawyer, Orin Snyder, a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, yesterday echoed Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook in his opening statement yesterday, calling the government’s case “bizarre.”

“Apple is going to trial because it did nothing wrong,” Snyder said.

Apple is the last defendant remaining in the case after the five publishers sued by the government avoided trial by settling.

“You don’t see a lot of these antitrust trials,” said Andrew M. Friedman, a partner with the law firm Patton Boggs LLP in Washington. “It’s pretty unusual.”

The case is part of an upsurge in antitrust litigation by the Justice Department, reflecting an Obama administration that has been more aggressive than its predecessors in challenging companies. The government is seeking an order barring Apple from anticompetitive actions, including price-fixing, in the market for digital books. The U.S. isn’t asking for money damages.

A group of states is also seeking fines and unspecified damages. If Apple is found liable in the trial, damages will be determined in a separate proceeding. A win for the government may fuel class actions by private plaintiffs seeking triple damages permitted under antitrust law.

The government team is led by Mark W. Ryan, the director of litigation for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. Ryan joined the division after a career in private practice.

Ryan supervised a lawsuit that challenged beermaker Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI)’s proposed $20.1 billion purchase of Grupo Modelo SAB. The suit was settled in April. Ryan is joined by Buterman, who represented the government in a 2011 case that killed H&R Block Inc. (HRB)’s proposed $287.5 million acquisition of the maker of TaxAct products.

Gabriel Gervey, a lawyer in the Texas attorney general’s office, is the lead lawyer for the states.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc., 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more, click here.

Government Lawyers

Robert E. Rice Named as Chief Counsel to SEC Chairwoman White

Robert E. Rice was appointed Securities and Exchange Commission Chief Counsel, Mary Jo White said yesterday in a statement.

Rice is a former federal prosecutor and most recently, the head of governance, litigation and regulation for the Americas at Deutsche Bank AG in New York. He was also the global co-head of its governance, litigation and regulation operating committee.

At the SEC, Rice will be a senior legal and policy adviser to White and provide advice and counsel on regulatory matters.

Rice, 57, began his legal career in 1987 as an associate at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP, in New York, and spent from 1991 to 2000 in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. He investigated and prosecuted securities fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering cases and was named Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, according to the SEC statement.

Before joining Deutsche Bank in 2004, he spent four years at McDermott, Will & Emery LLP.

News

Singapore Ex-Law Professor Jailed Five Months for Corruption

Tey Tsun Hang, a former associate professor of law at National University of Singapore, was sentenced to five months in prison for abusing his position by having sex with a student and accepting gifts from her.

“Corruption must be stamped out effectively and swiftly,” Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye said in imposing the sentence at a Singapore subordinate court yesterday.

Tan imposed a longer term than had been sought by prosecutors, who had recommended that Tey, 42, be jailed for at least 12 weeks for violating the “sacred” position of a teacher and undermining the university’s reputation. Tey’s lawyer Peter Low had sought only a fine for his client, or if necessary, he said, a short jail term.

Tan raised Tey’s bail to S$150,000 ($119,000) from S$100,000. Tey was handcuffed and led away by four police officers.

Low said his client will be released once the bail is processed and will appeal.

Tey was sentenced to three months in jail for having sex with the student and two months for accepting the gifts, to be served consecutively. He was given the same terms for a second sex charge and three other charges of accepting gifts, which are to run concurrently. Each charge carried a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a S$100,000 fine.

Tey, fired by the university after his conviction, had said the gifts and sex were part of a consensual relationship he had in 2010 with the student, now 23.

The case is Prosecutor v. Tey Tsun Hang. DAC027011/2012. The Subordinate Courts of Singapore.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Amon in Brooklyn, New York, at eamon2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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