Kaye Scholer, Hogan Lovells, Milberg, Baker: Business of Law

Pfizer Inc. isn’t liable for the breast-cancer death of a woman who died after taking menopause drugs made by the company’s units, a Connecticut jury ruled in a victory for defense lawyers at Kaye Scholer LLP, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP.

Jurors in federal court in Bridgeport deliberated about five hours over two days before finding Pfizer’s Wyeth unit provided proper warnings about the health risks of its Prempro hormone-replacement pill to Lynn Moss. The 62-year-old nurse died in December 2006 “after a protracted battle with breast cancer,” according to court filings.

Kaye Scholer product liability partners Pamela Yates and Andrew Solow served as co-trial counsel for Wyeth, along with David Dukes of Nelson Mullins and Kelly Evans of Snell & Wilmer. Yates and Dukes were co-lead trial counsel, Kaye Scholer said.

Nelson Mullins partners Mark Jones, Michael Hogue, Amanda Witt and Eric Paine also participated.

Other firms from Pfizer’s Legal Alliance, including DLA Piper LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, assisted the trial team and are involved in the overall defense of Hormone Therapy litigation, Kaye Scholer said in a statement.

More than 6 million women took Prempro and related menopause drugs to treat symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted their links to cancer. Wyeth’s sales of the medicines, which are still on the market, topped $2 billion before the release of the Women’s Health Initiative, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study.

Until 1995, many menopausal women combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer’s Upjohn unit, to relieve their symptoms. Wyeth combined the two hormones in its Prempro pill.

“There is a great deal of evidence that was excluded from this trial that we believe hampered the jury’s ability to appropriately consider all of the issues,” Neal Moskow, one of the attorneys for Moss’s family, said in the statement.

In addition to Moskow, of Ury & Moskow LLC, the plaintiffs were represented by Greg Bubalo and Steven Rotman of Bubalo Rotman Plc.

Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have now won 10 of 21 Prempro cases decided by juries since trials began in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The New York-based drugmaker got some of the verdicts against it thrown out after trial or had the awards reduced. It resolved some of the verdicts through settlements, while other decisions are on appeal. Pfizer also has had cases thrown out before trial and settled others.

Pfizer announced in May 2011 it had settled a third of the pending Prempro cases and had set aside $772 million to help resolve the claims.

The Moss case is Lynn Gardner Moss and Kenneth P. Moss v. Wyeth, 04-cv-1511, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (Bridgeport).

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Former U.K. Madoff Trustee Lawyer Gets Three-Year Sentence

A London lawyer who advised the trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff’s assets was sentenced to three years in jail by a U.K. court for fraudulently claiming 1.27 million pounds ($2 million) in expenses from his law firm, Hogan Lovells LLP.

Christopher Grierson, a former partner at the firm who advised on asset-tracing and fraud, admitted to making 57 fake travel claims, the Crown Prosecution Service said in March.

“It was well planned, it was sophisticated. It was a serious breach of trust,” Judge John Price said yesterday at a hearing in London. “But it is right to say that you have suffered from mental illness.”

Price said Grierson would serve half of his sentence. Grierson was fired from the law firm in May 2011 and subsequently repaid the money to Hogan Lovells.

Grierson’s lawyer, Mark Ellison, asked the judge to take into account that his client suffered from a long-standing mental illness.

Peter Binning, another lawyer for Grierson, said the sentence can’t be appealed.

Irving Picard, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court-appointed trustee liquidating the accounts of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, hired Grierson in 2009 to help recover Madoff assets in Europe.

Milberg Seeks to Withdraw as Ceglia Law Firm in Facebook Lawsuit

Milberg LLP is seeking to withdraw from Paul Ceglia’s lawsuit claiming half the Facebook Inc. holdings of Mark Zuckerberg, the social network’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

Sanford Dumain, chairman of Milberg’s executive committee and the lead lawyer on the firm’s team representing Ceglia, yesterday filed a request in federal court in Buffalo, New York, to quit as Ceglia’s counsel. The move, which must be approved by the judge overseeing the case, comes less than three months after Milberg began its work for Ceglia.

Dumain filed the request on behalf of two other Milberg lawyers and two lawyers from firms in upstate New York that also represent Ceglia. Dumain said in the filing that he is submitting a statement of his reasons to the court for its private review.

Since Ceglia filed the case less than two years ago, four law firms have left after notifying the court they represented him. In June 2011, DLA Piper LLP, one of the world’s biggest law firms with 4,200 lawyers in 31 countries, and Buffalo’s Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP withdrew from representing Ceglia after less than three months on the job.

Two other firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP in New York and Chicago’s Edelson McGuire LLC left after working on the case outside court, according to papers filed in the suit.

Daniel Fleshler, a spokesman for New York-based Milberg, declined to comment on the request to withdraw.

Dean Boland, a Lakewood, Ohio, attorney who continues to represent Ceglia, said Milberg’s planned departure stems from differences over strategy among the lawyers. Also remaining on Ceglia’s team is Paul Argentieri, the Hornell, New York, lawyer who filed the original complaint in the case in June 2010.

In the suit, Ceglia claims that a 2003 contract he signed with Zuckerberg made them partners in the start of Facebook, now the world’s biggest social network. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has called Ceglia’s claim a fraud.

“The revolving door of lawyers is yet additional evidence that this abusive lawsuit is a hoax and a fraud,” Orin Snyder, who represents Facebook and Zuckerberg in the case, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, 10-cv-00569, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo).

Dewey Unsecured Creditors May Find Cupboard Is Bare of Cash

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP’s unsecured creditors, meeting yesterday in Manhattan to form a committee to represent their interests, may find the defunct law firm has nothing left to pay them.

Dewey’s Memorial Day bankruptcy filing disclosed $225 million of secured loans from banks and bondholders to be paid mostly from $255 million of bills to the defunct law firm’s clients that analysts value at as little as 40 cents on the dollar.

Secured creditors by law must be paid in full before unsecured creditors get anything.

Topping a list of Dewey’s unsecured creditors is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., claiming $80 million for underfunded pensions. Second is Dewey’s landlord, Paramount Group, claiming $3.8 million for property taxes and May rent, followed by Thomson Reuters Corp., owed $2.4 million for legal research.

Former Dewey partners, including those with an estimated $100 million of guarantees, can rank equal to, or below trade creditors under bankruptcy law.

“Dewey is essentially a zero-asset bankruptcy for the unsecureds,” said Ed Reeser, a former managing partner for the Los Angeles office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP who’s now a consultant. “There is nothing there for them to get. There is going to be terrible pain worked on many good people.”

Vendor claims against Dewey, also known as trade paper, were recently quoted at 5 cents to 8 cents on the dollar, said Joseph Sarachek, managing director of claims trading at CRT Capital Group LLC, which buys and sells distressed debt including Dewey’s.

The category includes a unit of ABM Industries, which provided janitorial services at Dewey’s offices at 1301 Avenue of the Americas in New York and sued the firm for about $300,000 in unpaid bills.

Dewey’s secured bonds, which were privately placed and trade sparsely, were quoted at 45 cents to 55 cents on the dollar this month, CRT said.

Dewey unwound fast this year as at least 250 of its 304 partners quit to join rivals. Now it faces a long fight to collect money for secured lenders led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., from clients reluctant to pay bills and partners who might have carried off some of the firm’s business to rivals as they joined new firms.

The case is In re Dewey & LeBoeuf, 12-12321, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Firm News

Baker & McKenzie Opens South African Office With Dewey Lawyers

Baker & McKenzie LLP is starting a Johannesburg office, with 16 lawyers as well as staff from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP South Africa.

The new office is led by partners Wildu du Plessis, banking and finance; Scott Brodsky, energy and projects; Chris Moraitis, infrastructure and finance; and, Morne van der Merwe, a mergers and acquisition lawyer focused on the mining industry, the firm said in a statement.

Initially, the office will focus on energy, mining and infrastructure, project finance, banking, capital markets, securitization, mergers and acquisitions and private equity.

“As the continent’s largest economy and biggest recipient of foreign direct investment, South Africa is the linchpin for our expansion plans for the continent,” Eduardo Leite, chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s executive committee, said in a statement.

Baker & McKenzie’s first office in Africa, in Cairo, was established in 1985. Lawyers there work in the energy and natural resources markets and advise clients on transactions in Africa including in the energy, natural resources, health care, IT and telecommunications, retail and other sectors.

This is Baker & McKenzie’s third office opening in the past 12 months, following Istanbul and Doha, Qatar. The firm has 70 offices in 43 countries around the world.

Corporate Partner Levinson to Manage Baker Botts in Moscow

Maxim Levinson has been named partner in charge of the Baker Botts LLP’s Moscow office as of July 1, the firm said in a statement.

Levinson concentrates on mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructurings. He also has experience in structuring, drafting and negotiating international financing transactions, including acquisition and project finance transactions and financings guaranteed by export credit agencies. He has advised on matters for clients such as Gazprombank, Novatek, SUEK, EBRD and IFC, the firm said.

“Maxim has extensive experience in the oil and gas, power and financial sectors with an exceptional reputation in the Russian market,” said Baker Botts’ managing partner Andrew M. Baker. “His appointment aligns perfectly with our strategic vision for Moscow.”

Levinson, who joined Baker Botts in 2008 as a corporate partner, will succeed Steve Wardlaw. Wardlaw will divide his time between the Moscow and London offices, working on European and Central Asian energy matters.

The Moscow office opened in 1993. Since then, it has grown to almost 30 lawyers that provide services to energy industry clients as well as aviation, banking, corporate, finance, technology, consumer products, mining, power and real estate companies, the firm said.

Baker Botts is an international law firm with more than 725 lawyers and 13 offices around the world.


Federal Trade Commission Trial Lawyer Joins Simpson Thacher

Matt Reilly, former assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission, will join Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s antitrust practice as a partner in the Washington office.

Reilly joins the firm after 13 years in the government, litigating antitrust matters. He was the lead litigator on the Whole Food-Wild Oats and CSL-Talecris cases.

In 2009, Whole Foods Market Inc., the largest natural-food grocer, agreed to sell 32 natural and organic supermarkets to settle a fight with U.S. antitrust enforcers over its 2007 takeover of Wild Oats Markets Inc.

CSL Ltd.’s $3.1 billion failed bid for Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp., would have helped CSL overtake Baxter International Inc. as the leader in the $15 billion global market for blood plasma-derived medical treatments.

From 2007 until recently, Reilly served as the head of the FTC’s Mergers IV division, where he led investigations, including those involving hospitals, retail and consumer products.

“During Matt’s tenure at the FTC, he clearly established himself as an outstanding litigator and our clients globally will benefit greatly from his talent and insight,” Kevin Arquit, head of the firm’s antitrust practice said in a statement.

Simpson Thacher has more than 850 lawyers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America.

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