WilmerHale, Covington, Proskauer, Dechert: Business of Law

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP was retained by Best Buy Co.’s board to investigate former Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn’s personal conduct.

Two of WilmerHale’s partners -- former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Director of Enforcement William R. McLucas and former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Thomas Strickland will lead the investigation, firm spokeswoman Molly Nunes said April 13.

McLucas declined to comment in an e-mail, and Strickland didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

WilmerHale’s roster of Washington lawyers includes Seth Waxman, the Clinton administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, and former deputy attorneys general David W. Ogden and Jamie Gorelick.

Best Buy announced Dunn’s resignation last week, saying that the change was part of a “mutual agreement” that new leadership was needed. The company later said that a board committee was probing Dunn’s “personal conduct, unrelated to the company’s operations or financial control.”

That investigation centers on Dunn’s relationship with a female employee, people familiar with the matter said last week.


Covington, Proskauer Advise on Sale of NBA’s Hornets

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson turned to Washington’s Covington & Burling LLP, the primary outside counsel for the National Football League, to buy the city’s basketball team from the National Basketball Association. The NBA relied on Proskauer Rose LLP for the deal that was announced April 13.

It was a fast-breaking deal. Covington partner Bruce Wilson got the call on Monday, April 9; the papers were signed April 12. Benson was introduced at the owners’ meeting on Friday.

Wilson said that despite the speed of the negotiations, the “discussions were friendlier because you’re purchasing from future partners. It gives the parties involved real incentive to treat each other with mutual respect and reach the best deal for everyone.”

In addition to Wilson, Covington lawyers on the deal were special counsel Scott Roades, partners Peter Zern, Jeremy Spector and Rob Heller, Michael Francese and Michael Cutler, and associates Brent Little, Christopher Hartsfield and Katherine Mineka.

Harvey Benjamin, the NBA’s executive counsel and a former Proskauer partner, represented the league in the negotiations along with Proskauer partner Wayne Katz and associate Frank Saviano. Katz declined to comment on the deal and Benjamin didn’t respond to a telephone call seeking comment.

Bloomberg reporters Mason Levinson and Scott Soshnick said Benson will pay $338 million, citing a person with direct knowledge of the transaction who was granted anonymity because the price isn’t public. League spokesman Tim Frank declined to comment. Greg Bensel, a spokesman for the Saints, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. Wilson declined to comment as well.

“We have really found the perfect owner,” David Stern, the National Basketball Commissioner said at a news conference in New York after a league owners meeting.

The NBA took control of the Hornets in 2010. Benson has owned the National Football League Saints since 1985.

Wilson said that while the team owners still have to vote on the sale, he expected the deal to close before the start of the NFL season.

Dechert, Cleary Gottlieb on French Telecom-Orascom Deal

France Telecom SA will seek approval from Egyptian regulators to buy out the remaining publicly traded shares in its local wireless venture with billionaire Naguib Sawiris in a 1.5-billion-euro ($2 billion) transaction.

France’s biggest phone company agreed on the final terms of the deal with Egyptian partner Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE, including a 202.5 Egyptian pound-a-share ($33.56) offer to acquire Cairo-listed Egyptian Company for Mobile Services, the companies said last week. They reached a preliminary agreement in February on Mobinil, as the operator is known.

France Telecom is relying on lawyers from Dechert LLP for the deal. The team includes in Paris, partners François Hellot, Ermine Bolot, Xavier Nyssen and associates Guillaume Briant, Samantha Nataf, Marie de Jessey, Anne-Charlotte Rivière; in Brussels, partner René Gonne and associates François Reyntens and Geoffroy Fink; in Luxembourg, partner Marc Seimetz and associate Jean-Louis Frognet; in London, partners Corinna Mitchell and Jonathan Pickworth; and in New York, Matthew Kerfoot.

Zaki Hashem & Partners is acting as local Egyptian counsel to France-Telecom Orange, a spokeswoman for Dechert, Elizabeth Huffman said in an e-mail.

Orascom relied on lawyers from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. Cleary’s lawyers include partner Gamal Abouali, counsel Mark Adams and associates Olga Kharitonova, John Olson, Rafik Mzah, Camille Dussaix and Jacques Graas in Paris, with assistance from a Brussels-based team comprising partner Laurent Legein and associates Géraldine Bourguignon and Christophe Wauters, and partner David Billington in London.


Norton Rose Wants U.S., China Law Firm Mergers, CEO Martyr Says

Norton Rose Group, the 2,900-lawyer firm combining U.K., Australian, Canadian, South African and affiliated partnerships, is looking for mergers in the U.S. and China, Chief Executive Officer Peter Martyr said.

“I see the world as two pillars, China and the States,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Douglas Wong. “To be a global business you need to have both of those pillars. What we already have is the hammock that swings between them now.”

London-based Norton Rose has grown from 1,200 lawyers in 2009 by merging with four firms through a so-called verein structure, maintaining separate finances. Asia’s largest legal group, King & Wood Mallesons, was formed last month with a similar arrangement between Chinese and Australian firms. Both groups aim to challenge the world’s largest law firms, U.S.- based DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie.

Norton Rose’s transformation has changed how other law firms see it, said Martyr, who was appointed Jan. 1 to a second three-year term. While it isn’t in merger negotiations with any U.S. firms now, he said he receives visits from six or seven a year, and “we’re constantly talking to other people.”

Any U.S. partner would have to have a strong New York presence, Martyr said, as a global law firm needs to be in the world’s capital market centers.

“You have to be in the States,” he said, noting that he’s said such a merger should occur within two to five years for the past four years. “If the right thing comes along at the right time, we’ll do it.”

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Securities Class-Action Cases Increased in 2011, PwC Study Says

Federal securities class-action cases increased by about 10 percent from those filed in 2010, according to a study released April 11 by PwC US.

Almost 200 cases were filed last year, as reported by PwC’s 16th annual study of securities-litigation cases.

In particular, 48 mergers and acquisition cases were filed last year, 17 percent more than 2010.

The number of cases relating to the financial crisis seems to be ebbing. Only nine cases were filed last year.

In a statement, PwC partner Patricia Etzold said, “the dramatic rise in M&A cases signals that this ‘new’ focus of litigation may be here for some time to come.” She added, “In light of the uptick in cases, companies may need to factor litigation risk into the timeline and costs associated with any transaction.”

To read the entire study, click here.


CBOE Hires Chief Compliance Officer Following U.S. Investigation

CBOE Holdings Inc. named a former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer to oversee regulatory affairs at its exchanges, a month after announcing a federal inquiry and the resignation of a senior compliance executive.

Alexandra M. Albright, who was of counsel in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, will start April 23 as chief compliance officer, the Chicago-based company said Friday in a statement. Albright worked at the SEC from 2001 to 2006, most recently in the enforcement division’s office of market surveillance.

The owner of the Chicago Board Options Exchange hired Albright a month after saying that senior compliance executive Patrick Fay quit.

The exchange operator disclosed in February that the SEC is investigating whether CBOE complied with its obligations as a self-regulatory organization. Such firms are required to write rules for their markets, monitor trading and ensure that they and their customers aren’t breaking securities laws.

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