Linklaters, Dewey, Sullivan, Akin Gump: Business of Law

Allens Arthur Robinson, a 190-year-old Australian law firm, and Linklaters LLP, a London-based firm with 2,200 lawyers, agreed on an alliance to compete internationally with local firms that have grown after combining with foreign ones.

AAR, to be named Allens, and Linklaters will operate independently although they’ve agreed on joint ventures in Asia, including a joint practice in Indonesia with Widyawan & Partners, Michael Rose, Allens’s chief executive partner, said in a phone interview. The alliance will take effect May 1.

Australian law firms are tying up with international firms to gain access to global legal business as U.K. and U.S. firms seek to operate in the growing Asian market. Chinese attorneys are also looking for international tie-ups to expand. China’s King & Wood merged with Australia’s Mallesons Stephen Jaques on March 1 to create Asia’s biggest law firm, while London-based Norton Rose combined with Deacons Australia in 2010.

The firm sought a broader international reach because of changing trade and investment flows, Rose said. While most offshore business coming into Australia 10 years ago was from the U.K., U.S. and Japan, that has changed recently and now includes the Middle East, Russia and India, in addition to companies and sovereign funds, he said.

“The firms are a very good fit,” Linklaters senior partner Robert Elliott said in a statement, referring to his firm allying with Allens. “By combining our resources and aligning our supporting processes we will be able to enhance and expand what we can do for our clients.”

Allens, with 800 lawyers in 14 offices in Asia and Australia, has been the legal adviser to 77 of the top 100 publicly traded companies in Australia, according to the firm’s website. It was named the Australian law firm of the year in 2011 in the Chambers Asia-Pacific 2012 guide.

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Greenberg Traurig Says It’s Talked About Dewey & LeBoeuf Lawyers

Greenberg Traurig LLP said it has held preliminary discussions regarding lawyers at Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, the New York law firm said to be considering options including a prepackaged bankruptcy filing.

“We have had preliminary discussions relating to lawyers at Dewey LeBoeuf but we have made no commitments, have not reached agreements and have had no involvement in the firm’s financial situation or relationships,” Jill Perry, a Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement April 20.

Greenberg Traurig has grown into a firm with more than 1,700 lawyers and 29 U.S. locations without having done a merger, Perry said in the statement. The New York-based firm regularly considers “quality opportunities” and had discussions “in that spirit,” according to the statement.

More than 60 partners have left Dewey during what the firm has called a restructuring process. The largest exiting contingent was a group of 12 insurance and regulatory lawyers who went to Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP last month.

A team led by Dewey partners Martin Bienenstock and Bruce Bennett is considering a so-called prepackaged bankruptcy plan, a person familiar with the matter said. Such a plan, which would be approved by creditors before it was filed, could lead to a merger with another U.S. firm, said the person who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly. The team is also examining what would happen if the firm shuts down, the person said.

“We are considering various paths, including continuing to operate as an independent global law firm and a strategic combination with another leading law firm, the latter of which could take many forms,” Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for Dewey, said April 20 in a statement. “Nothing, however, at this point, is definitive.”

Kakolyris didn’t return calls after regular business hours April 20 seeking comment on talks with Greenberg Traurig, which were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Bill Brennan, a consultant with Altman Weil Inc. who advises on law firm mergers, said the firm’s debt poses an obstacle to any merger plans.

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U.K. Serious Fraud Office Chief Walks Away From Agency in Flux

Richard Alderman, the director of the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, stepped down April 20 after a four-year term in which ambitious reforms to combat bribery were hampered by a dwindling budget and a depleted staff, Bloomberg News’s Lindsay Fortado reports.

Alderman has championed a system of negotiating corruption settlements with companies rather than prosecutions since joining the SFO as director in 2008. He was criticized for taking on several high-profile investigations, including American International Group Inc.’s Financial Products unit and convicted swindler Bernard Madoff’s London operations, only to close them later citing a lack of evidence.

He’s also faced a shrinking budget amid government austerity measures, a year-long fight with the Home Office to save the SFO from dissolution, judicial criticism of the agency’s handling of cases, and a staff exodus to law and accounting firms.

“With very severe cutbacks in our budget, we’ve taken less time to take cases to court, and we’re taking on more cases than ever before and being more successful with them,” Alderman, 59, said in an interview on April 11. The SFO is “pushing the boundaries” on global settlements in corruption investigations.

Alderman said he intends to stay involved in anti-corruption work when he leaves the SFO. David Green, a barrister who led the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office for five years until it was folded into the Crown Prosecution Service, will inherit an agency in flux when he takes over on April 23.

The SFO’s chief executive officer, general counsel, chief investigator, head of anti-corruption and proceeds-of-crime units, head of fraud, and a senior policy adviser have all left.

Lawyers say Green may prefer to take cases to court to prosecute, whereas Alderman encouraged companies to self-report instances of corruption and negotiate a settlement, a tactic that allowed the agency to handle some cases on a tight budget.

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On The Docket

MBIA Case Over Restructuring Approval Set for May 14 Trial

Banks suing over New York’s approval of MBIA Inc.’s restructuring in 2009 are set to argue their case starting May 14, as they ask a judge to hear claims the bond insurer hid information from state regulators.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s Robert Giuffra will be representing the banks along with colleagues, Michael Steinberg, Michael Tomaino and Brian Frawley. Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP will be representing MBIA along with New York partner Kenneth David.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kapnick in Manhattan said at a hearing April 20 that trial would begin May 14 and the proceeding will be “a glorified oral argument with some testimony.” There won’t be a jury.

The case focuses on the decision by the New York Insurance Department and then-Superintendent Eric Dinallo to approve MBIA’s restructuring in which it split its main bond-insurance unit into two businesses.

A group of institutions holding financial guarantee policies issued by MBIA Insurance sued Dinallo, the regulator and MBIA, claiming the move left MBIA Insurance insolvent. A separate lawsuit is also pending against MBIA. The banks suing are Bank of America Corp., Natixis and Societe Generale SA.

The banks contend MBIA concealed information about its financial condition from the regulator.

“We’re confident that on the law and on the evidence this approval cannot stand,” Giuffra said in an interview.

MBIA has said the insurance department had full access to company records and personnel. Kevin Brown, a spokesman for Armonk, New York-based MBIA, said earlier this month that the insurance department conducted a “thorough, independent and comprehensive investigation” before the approval.

“The bank’s started this case with almost 20 petitioners and there are only a few left,” Kasowitz said in an interview April 20. “Everyone else has dismissed their claims and our expectation is that the claims of the remaining petitioners will be dismissed as well.”

The case is ABN Amro Bank v. Dinallo, 601846-2010, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).


Akin Gump, Simpson Thacher Represent Great Wolf Bidders

Apollo Global Management LLC raised its bid April 20 for water-park operator Great Wolf Resorts Inc. for the second time last week, topping an offer from private equity firm KSL Capital Partners LLC.

Great Wolf is getting legal counsel from Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP and Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP and financial advice from Deutsche Bank AG. Paul Weiss’s lawyers include New York partners Jeffrey Marell, Lawrence Wee and Kelley Parker, and counsel Ross Fieldston. Young Conaways’ team includes Wilmington partners David McBride, Bruce Silverstein, John Paschetto and James Hughes.

Apollo is being advised by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, Nomura Holdings Inc. Akin’s legal team is led by New York-based corporate partner Adam Weinstein and included New York partners Rosa Testani, Brian Kim and Jeffrey Kochian and counsel Tony Feuerstein.

Lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP are representing KSL, including Palo Alto partners Chad Skinner and William Brentani and Washington D.C. partner Christopher Brown. Associates Nick Washburn, Jonathan Amt, Ryan Coombs, Andrew Veit, Kamal Patel and Diana Snyder have also been involved.

The board is backing Apollo’s new offer of $7.85 a share, the Madison, Wisconsin-based company said in a statement April 20. The offer is about $740 million, including debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Later that day, KSL told Great Wolf that it wouldn’t submit any further bids, Great Wolf said.

This is at least the third time New York-based Apollo has sweetened its bid for Great Wolf, which operates 11 resorts in North America, after KSL started a bidding war. Shareholders sued Great Wolf following Apollo’s initial proposal on March 13 of $5 a share, claiming Great Wolf didn’t obtain the highest possible offer.

KSL offered $7.25 a share April 19, in its third public attempt to buy Great Wolf. The Denver-based private equity firm first challenged Apollo for the resort operator earlier this month. Great Wolf traded at $4.19 on March 12, the day before the board approved Apollo’s original offer.


Life Sciences Partner Joins McDermott Chicago Office

McDermott Will & Emery LLP added Kristian A. Werling as a partner in its corporate advisory practice group. Werling, who is in the Chicago office, was previously chair of of the life sciences group at McGuireWoods LLP.

Werling has worked on behalf of both corporate and private equity funds on acquisitions in the life sciences area.

McDermott’s life sciences group has more than 135 lawyers, patent agents and scientific advisers. The firm has more than 1,000 lawyers in 16 offices in the U.S. and Europe.

Disputes Specialist Joins Minter Ellison in Western Australia

Minter Ellison has announced the appointment of Michael Hales, former chair of Nabarro LLP’s international committee, as a senior legal consultant in the Perth office. He will become a partner after the finalization of Australian visa requirements and formalities required to practice in Western Australia.

Hales is a commercial dispute resolution and international arbitration specialist with nearly 25 years experience, the firm said in a statement. He has handled international and multi-jurisdictional cases involving banking, corporate law, e-commerce, taxes and fraud.

Minter Ellison’s international litigation and dispute resolution team has more than 35 partners throughout the firm’s Australasian offices and in Hong Kong.

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