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Jackson Lewis Adds San Francisco Partner: Business of Law

Jackson Lewis LLP said Fraser A. McAlpine, Hunton & Williams LLP’s former California labor and employment head, joined the firm and will become managing partner of its San Francisco office on Jan. 1.

McAlpine will take over the management post from Bradley W. Kampas, who will return to his practice full-time. McAlpine was formerly the managing partner of Hunton & Williams’ San Francisco office.

“He brings a wealth of substantive experience, particularly with employment class actions, which will enhance our robust practice in San Francisco and take it to a new and exciting level,” Jackson Lewis Chairman Vincent A. Cino said in a statement.

McAlpine’s practice involves wage-and-hour claims, employment discrimination class actions and unfair business practice litigation, according to his former firm’s biography. He also represents and counsels management in disputes related to pensions, executive compensation, employee raiding and misappropriation of trade secrets.

Jackson Lewis has 765 attorneys at 54 offices in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Ex-Proskauer Labor Lawyer Lawrence Lorber Joins Seyfarth Shaw

Lawrence Lorber, the labor lawyer who headed Proskauer Rose LLP’s Washington employment practice, joined Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Lorber has also worked as deputy assistant secretary of Labor and director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

“Larry is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the intersection of employment law and policy,” Lisa Damon, the chairwoman of Seyfarth’s labor and employment department, said in a statement. “Working closely with both Republican and Democratic administrations, he has helped implement a number of laws which continue to shape today’s labor and employment landscape.””

Lorber counsels and represents employers on labor and employment matters including equal employment opportunity topics, affirmative action, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Labor Department audits, wages and hours, employment aspects of corporate mergers and acquisitions, employee discipline and the preparation of employee handbooks and human resource policies.

He also advises clients on government contract issues, as well as congressional and regulatory matters.

Seyfarth Shaw has more than 800 attorneys and offices in the U.S., London, Shanghai and Australia.

Akin Gump Hires Former California State Assembly Majority Leader

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP said Dario J. Frommer, formerly of Mayer Brown LLP, joined the firm as a partner in Los Angeles, where he will lead the firm’s California public law and policy practice.

Frommer, a former majority leader of the California State Assembly, also was chairman of its Health Committee and was appointments secretary to Governor Gray Davis.

His practice is a mix of political advice and representation of clients before state and local government entities, including rulemaking, regulatory enforcement, bids, bid protests and investigations. His experience includes energy, climate change, health care, tribal gaming, government procurement and election law, the firm said.

“California is both a major economic driver for the nation as well as the state with the largest congressional delegation,” Kim Koopersmith, the firm’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “As such, our clients will benefit tremendously by gaining access to Dario’s knowledge and experience.”

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

Pryor Cashman Gets U.S. Prosecutor Alberts as White-Collar Head

Jeffrey Alberts joined Pryor Cashman LLP as a partner and chairman of its white-collar defense and investigations practice. He previously worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, based in Manhattan.

His practice will focus on government investigations and prosecutions, and related regulatory proceedings, asset forfeiture litigation, victims’ rights representation, and complex civil litigation, the firm said. Alberts will also support the firm’s art-law practice because of his experience with asset forfeiture.

“As result of increased government oversight, there is a thorny brier of regulations that require deft skill to understand and navigate,” Ronald H. Shechtman, Pryor Cashman’s managing partner, said in a statement. “Jeff brings to our clients an insider’s perspective that is a perfect complement to our current capabilities.”

Alberts won a Justice Department award for his work in the asset forfeiture proceedings against Marc Dreier. He was also recognized for his work in the forfeiture of more than $500 million in proceeds from the fraud at Refco Inc.

Pryor Cashman has more than 130 attorneys at offices in New York and Los Angeles.

Litigator Rothell Joins Morris Manning in Washington

Morris, Manning & Martin LLP hired partner Bonnie Hochman Rothell along with an associate and paralegal for its Washington litigation practice. Rothell, previously the chairwoman of Krooth & Altman LLP’s litigation and risk management practice, will work closely with the firm’s real estate and commercial finance/lending practices.

Rothell specializes in matters involving the Agriculture Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Government National Mortgage Association and private lending and mortgage originating and servicing, the firm said.

“We are committed to growing our D.C. office and filling it with smart, energetic attorneys who blend well with our practice areas and personality,” Louise Wells, the firm’s managing partner, said in a statement.

Rothell has been practicing law for more than 25 years, almost exclusively with a focus on litigation and risk avoidance. She also specializes in creditors’ rights and bankruptcy matters, representing both lenders and borrowers.

Morris Manning has offices in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Taipei; Beijing and Washington, as well as an alliance with FGCN in Sao Paulo.

News

Law Firm Unfinished-Business Bid Sent to New York Appeals Court

The New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, will be deciding whether a bankrupt law firm is entitled to profit from the hourly fees in unresolved client matters that departing lawyers have taken with them to new firms.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan referred the question to the New York Court of Appeals in a case involving the defunct firm Thelen LLP. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled in September 2012 in Thelen’s bankruptcy liquidation that hourly fees earned on unfinished business at a new law firm don’t belong to the defunct firm.

Earlier that same year, in the liquidation of Coudert Brothers LLP, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said fees earned on unfinished business belong to the liquidated firm.

Both cases were appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Nov. 15 referred the question in Thelen’s case to the New York Court of Appeals. On issues governed by state law, federal courts must determine how the state’s highest court would probably rule if there isn’t already a definitive answer.

The ruling from the New York Court of Appeals, while not binding outside the state, will be persuasive because both partnership law and ethics laws are similar throughout the U.S.

The answer will also determine whether lawyers from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, which also went bankrupt, must disgorge profit on unfinished hourly business.

For more, click here.

Ex-Morgan Stanley Director McKnight Said Up for NBA Union Chief

Riche T. McKnight, a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP and a former executive director in the Morgan Stanley (MS) litigation department, is among the candidates to succeed ousted NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter, two people with direct knowledge of the search said.

The people were granted anonymity because the process isn’t public. McKnight declined to comment in a telephone interview.

McKnight was extensively involved in litigation arising from the financial crisis, including that pertaining to subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations, according to his law firm biography.

He was also part of a team that represented individual National Basketball Association players in antitrust litigation against the league and its clubs, and advised baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers in their bankruptcy, according to the bio.

The union hired Reilly Partners, a Chicago-based executive search firm, in September to find a replacement for Hunter.

Allison Mack, a Reilly Partners spokeswoman, said in a phone interview that the firm wouldn’t comment on the search. Teri Washington, a spokeswoman for the players union, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment on McKnight.

Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, is a partner at Winston & Strawn. He declined to comment on McKnight, who received his undergraduate degree in public policy from Duke University and his law degree from the University of Virginia.

Hunter was fired amid allegations of nepotism and abuse of union resources. Player representatives from 24 of the 30 teams voted unanimously in February to remove Hunter, ending the former federal prosecutor’s 16-year tenure. He was making $3 million annually.

His dismissal ended almost a year of speculation about his future with the association, punctuated by an audit conducted by New York-based Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP. The review concluded that, while Hunter did nothing illegal, he failed to manage conflicts of interest, lacked proper corporate governance and didn’t disclose that his contract wasn’t properly ratified.

The union hasn’t given a timetable to name a replacement. Ron Klempner, the New York-based association’s deputy general counsel, is serving as active executive director.

White Says SEC Ready for More Trials Prompted by Admissions Push

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is prepared for a potential increase in trials resulting from its move to seek tougher settlements from defendants, the agency’s chairman said.

Mary Jo White said in Washington Nov. 14 that the SEC welcomes the prospect of more trials, which can enhance public accountability by airing “a full factual record of wrongdoing.” White cited similar reasons when she announced in June that the SEC would seek admissions of wrongdoing in more settlements of its enforcement cases.

“Some have asked whether the agency’s trial lawyers are ready to go up against the best of the white-collar defense bar,” White, a former U.S. attorney and litigator, told an audience at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse. “It will probably come as no surprise to you, but my answer is a resounding yes, we are prepared to do that.”

The SEC has obtained admissions of wrongdoing in several enforcement cases since White made her June announcement. Her policy of seeking admissions of wrongdoing marked a change from the practice of regularly settling cases by allowing defendants to neither admit nor deny fault.

The regulator has obtained admissions of wrongdoing in settling cases against defendants Philip Falcone and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Falcone, a hedge-fund manager, was accused of improperly borrowing money from his fund to pay his personal taxes and giving preferential treatment to some of his investors in returning their money. JPMorgan admitted in September that it violated securities laws when it failed to catch London-based traders hiding losses in 2012.

“I altered the policy because I believe that in certain cases, more may be required for a resolution to achieve public accountability and to be, and viewed to be, a sufficient punishment to send a strong message of deterrence,” White said. “Not a trial, but some extra measure of public accountability.”

Firm News

Pierce Atwood Absorbs Rhode Island Firm Little Bulman

Little Bulman Medeiros & Whitney PC, a construction law and business dispute resolution firm, is joining Pierce Atwood LLP in December. The combined firm, operating as Pierce Atwood, will have about 145 attorneys at offices in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington and Stockholm.

“We are very excited to have the attorneys of Little Bulman join us,” Gloria Pinza, managing partner of Pierce Atwood said in a statement. “Their exceptional credentials in the construction law arena will combine with our strong construction practice to create a regional practice that will provide highly competitive expertise, depth and value throughout New England and beyond.”

DeWitt Ross Joins Forces With Minnesota’s Mackall Crounse

Wisconsin-based DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC announced a combination with the 26-attorney Minnesota firm of Mackall, Crounse & Moore PLC to create a firm with more than 100 attorneys.

The Minneapolis office will operate as DeWitt Mackall Crounse & Moore SC. The Wisconsin offices will continue as DeWitt Ross & Stevens. The firm’s management structure will continue in its current form with Bradley W. Raaths of DeWitt Ross & Stevens as managing partner and president.

Mackall has corporate, banking, tax, estate planning, mining and litigation practices, the firm said in a statement. DeWitt Ross & Stevens has corporate, environmental, government relations, labor and employment, litigation and intellectual property practices.

“Our expansion into the Twin Cities region is strategic and will allow us to offer enhanced legal services to new and existing clients in both regions, while maintaining the high quality of legal services and cost-effective rates we currently offer,” Raaths said in the statement.

Litigation

Chevron Adversary to Testify He Didn’t Commit Fraud in Ecuador

A Manhattan lawyer who’s spent his career battling Chevron Corp. (CVX) over pollution in Ecuador is set to defend the tactics he used to win a multibillion-dollar judgment against the company before a federal judge.

The attorney, Steven Donziger, is scheduled to take the stand today in a Manhattan trial over Chevron’s allegations that Ecuadorean plaintiffs secured their 2011 victory through bribery, fraud and coercion. The misdeeds amounted to a racketeering and extortion plot, the San Ramon, California-based company said in its lawsuit against Donziger, who joined the Ecuador case in the 1990s and became its lead adviser.

In a draft of written testimony Donziger made public, he denied wrongdoing and said the pollution judgment “represents a profound historical accomplishment of indigenous and farmer communities in securing justice for wrongs inflicted upon them by one of the most powerful corporations on the planet.”

Donziger said he drew upon his skills in “advocacy for the disadvantaged,” and believed it was important to wage the Ecuador case through the media, through protests and by speaking directly to influential people.

The goal in the case “was never to politically influence the legal process, but to safeguard that process from corrupt activities on behalf of Chevron,” Donziger said in the prepared testimony.

Chevron is seeking an order barring the plaintiffs from trying to enforce a $19 billion judgment won in Ecuador in 2011 on behalf of rain-forest villagers living in the country’s Lago Agrio region. The award was cut in half by the Ecuadorean National Court of Justice on Nov. 12. Chevron has refused to pay any of it.

Donziger’s testimony is scheduled in a nonjury trial that began last month before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan as the lawyer seeks to refute claims he and Ecuadorean associates exploited corruption in the country’s judiciary, bribed a judge, and ghostwrote an expert report and the court ruling against Chevron.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Donziger has pursued the pollution claims against the second-largest U.S. energy company with an intensity that inspired some writers to compare him to the Bible’s David and Goliath tale and Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab.

Throughout much of the case, Donziger worked out of his Manhattan apartment, raising money from financing partners and plotting strategy while Ecuadorean lawyers handled the litigation.

A team of about 15 lawyers and law students helping with the racketeering trial is living and working out of a three-bedroom apartment in lower Manhattan they call their “war room.”

Chevron, made part of the litigation through its purchase of Texaco, contended its predecessor cleaned up its share of the damage under agreements with Ecuador, and that Petroecuador, Texaco’s state-owned partner, was responsible for most of the pollution.

The racketeering case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 11-cv-00691, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more, click here.

SAC Asked Analyst Horvath About Insider Trading, U.S. Says

SAC Capital Advisors LP compliance officers and the firm’s outside lawyers questioned Jon Horvath in 2011, when he was an analyst at the firm, about insider trading with expert networker John Kinnucan and the firm Primary Global Research LLC, U.S. prosecutors said.

While Horvath didn’t make any false statements, he was “not forthcoming” about his involvement in any insider-trading scheme during two separate sessions with SAC compliance officers and Martin Klotz, an outside attorney for the fund, prosecutors said in a letter to the court.

Horvath, who worked at SAC’s Sigma Capital Management LLC unit, was first charged with being part of an insider-trading ring by prosecutors in the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in February 2012. Horvath pleaded guilty in September 2012 and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. He will be a witness against his former boss, SAC fund manager Michael Steinberg.

Kinnucan, the founder of Broadband Research LLC, pleaded guilty in July 2012 to obstruction of justice and passing illegal tips to hedge-fund clients about technology companies.

“The government presently intends to elicit at trial that, while Horvath did not make any false statements during those interviews, he was not forthcoming about his involvement in the insider-trading scheme to which he subsequently pleaded guilty,” assistant U.S. attorneys Antonia Apps and Harry Chernoff wrote to the judge.

Apps and Chernoff said that the government has learned from Horvath that he was questioned by SAC’s compliance team, Klotz and other lawyers at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

SAC pleaded guilty on Nov. 8 to insider trading. U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan said she hasn’t decided whether to accept the Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund’s plea.

Barry Berke, a lawyer for Steinberg, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message left at his office seeking comment about the letter.

The cases are U.S. v. Steinberg, 12-cr-00121, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), and U.S. v. SAC Capital Advisors LP, 13-cr-00541, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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

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

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