K&L Gates, Ropes & Gray, Orrick, Akin: Business of Law

Harvard University named two members to its board, including Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP’s Theodore V. Wells Jr., as part of the expansion begun in 2010 under President Drew Faust.

The other new member of the board, often called the Harvard Corporation, is Jessica Tuchman Mathews. They will join Jan. 1, the university, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said yesterday in a statement.

Faust proposed expanding the Corporation’s size after the university’s finances were hit hard by the financial crisis that began in 2008. Faust said then that she wanted to add people with different types of experience to the board, which oversees major projects such as the plans to build a new science center in Allston, a Boston neighborhood near Harvard’s main campus.

The new members will “expand our capacity and contribute important and distinctive perspectives to our work,” Faust and Robert Reischauer, senior fellow of the Corporation, said in the statement.

Wells and Matthews are the fifth and sixth new members elected since the board approved the plan to expand to 13 fellows from seven.

Wells, co-chair of the litigation department at Paul, Weiss in New York, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. He is chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He has served on a pro bono basis as general counsel to both the New Jersey NAACP and the New Jersey Democratic Party, according to the statement.

Mathews has served for 15 years as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and is an alumna and past trustee of Radcliffe College, according to the statement. She was a founding vice president and director of research of the World Resources Institute, which focuses on environmental and natural resource management. She was a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 1997, and now serves on the boards of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

K&L Gates Chairman Issues Memo Refuting Speculation About Firm

The chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates LLP, Peter J. Kalis, issued a firm memo Sept. 21 refuting reports that the firm is suffering from morale problems and losing partners at an alarming rate. The legal blog Above The Law first reported on it.

At the beginning of last week, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that lawyers from Bell Boyd & Lloyd, which merged with K&L Gates in 2009, are leaving the firm’s Chicago office in significant numbers. When the two firms merged three years ago, Bell Boyd had 218 lawyers. K&L Gates’s Chicago office now has only 128 lawyers, Crain’s reported. Law360 also reported on the departures and a morale problems on the part of attorneys at the firm, ATL reported.

Kalis’s memo, obtained by Bloomberg News, focused on comparing the firm’s finances and management to a Wells Fargo survey that called the outlook for the law firm industry grim. The memo stated that while the Walls Fargo report said profits fell during the first two quarters of 2011, “At K&L Gates, our profits increased during that time period by approximately 20% as compared to the same time period in 2011.”

The memo also noted that the firm doesn’t have the same practices that led to Dewey & LeBouef LLP’s closing earlier this year. “We distribute only our earned profits to our partners and do not engage in the Deweyesque charade of paying partners out of debt,” according to the memo.

As for the departures in Chicago, Kalis says the headcount has meant a more efficient office. “Although most of the departures occurred early in the year, its billings are up over 10% through August 31. And the corrosive effect of the disaffected has been externalized from the firm -- a group that, incidentally, left behind $2.3 Million in bad accounts when they departed,” Kalis wrote. “Chicago is doing quite well, thank you.”

Romney Forgoes Full Charity Tax Break for 2011 Rate Above 13%

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose to pay more in taxes than he needed to, forgoing about $250,000 in deductions to keep his tax rate above 13 percent.

Romney claimed tax deductions for $2.25 million of the $4 million he made in charitable contributions in 2011, his campaign said Sept. 21 before releasing his tax returns. The decision to pay more in taxes than necessary was political. Romney had told reporters that he hadn’t paid an effective rate of less than 13 percent over the past decade, in an effort to deflect Democratic attacks.

“It’s almost like he’s conceding, ‘Hey, no one’s going to want to see me go less than that 13 percent rate so I’m going to massage my deductions and actually forsake some of them to placate the American public,’” said Tony Nitti, a partner at WithumSmith & Brown PC in Aspen, Colorado, who prepares returns for high-income taxpayers. “I don’t know if it will placate anybody. The people who have issues with his tax rate are still going to have issues with his tax rate.”

Romney’s return is at odds with a July 29 statement in which the former private-equity executive said he didn’t think he would be qualified to be president if he paid more taxes than he owed.

“He has been clear that no American need pay more than he or she owes under the law,” Michele Davis, a campaign spokeswoman, said in a statement. “At the same time, he was in the unique position of having made a commitment to the public that his tax rate would be above 13 percent. He directed his preparers to ensure that he is consistent with that statement.”

Romney won’t file an amended return seeking a refund for the foregone charitable tax deduction, Davis said in an e-mailed response to a question.

The campaign of President Barack Obama and Romney’s chief tax-return antagonist, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, weren’t satisfied with Romney’s disclosure.

“Governor Romney is showing us what he does when the public is looking,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement. “The true test of his character would be to show what he did when everyone was not looking at his taxes.”

Romney, 65, and his wife, Ann, paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.7 million of income in 2011 for a 14.1 percent rate.

The Romneys make most of their income from investing an estimated $250 million fortune, and much of that income is taxed at a top rate of 15 percent rather than the top rate of 35 percent for wages. In 2011, Romney reported no income from wages, $6.8 million from capital gains and $3 million from taxable interest.

The Romneys donated more than 29 percent of their income to charity, including more than $1.1 million in cash to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The investment tax breaks could have kept Romney’s effective tax rate below 13 percent, which last month he said was at least what he had paid over the past decade. To stay above that level for 2011, Romney didn’t claim all of the deductions for charitable contributions that he could, according to a blog post by Brad Malt, a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston who manages Romney’s investments.

Romney is a former Massachusetts governor and co-founder of Bain Capital LLC, the Boston-based private equity firm. His returns, which include three trusts, reflect the wealth, income and estate-planning profile of a small fraction of U.S. taxpayers with investments around the world.

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U.K. Finance Watchdog Asks Lawmakers for More Enforcement Powers

The U.K. financial watchdog asked lawmakers for more enforcement powers, including an extension of the statute of limitations on probes and the ability to temporarily ban senior managers from their jobs while they are under investigation.

The three-year limit on investigations can make pursuing cases “more difficult,” the Financial Services Authority said in a written submission the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards made public on a government website Sept. 21. The regulator also requested the ability to “remove incumbent senior managers where they continue to pose a risk” to an investigation.

The FSA is aware it was seeking “a significant extension to our current powers,” according to the statement, and “appropriate safeguards would need to be considered.”

“A banking sector which functions well for consumers and the economy as a whole cannot be achieved unless employees below the level of senior management also act with honesty and integrity,” the agency said.

The regulator will be split into the Prudential Regulation Authority, which will become a unit of the Bank of England, and the Financial Conduct Authority, in 2013.

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General Counsel

Chesapeake Lawyer Demoted in First Shake-Up by New Directors

Chesapeake Energy Corp. demoted the lead counsel who defended Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon’s use of private stakes in company-operated natural-gas wells to obtain more than $800 million in personal loans.

In the first executive reshuffling since Chesapeake stripped McClendon of the chairman’s role and replaced more than half its directors in June, General Counsel Henry J. Hood was replaced as head of Chesapeake’s legal department by James R. Webb, the Oklahoma City-based company said in a statement Sept. 21.

Webb, a partner at the McAfee & Taft law firm, has been working for Chesapeake on a contract basis as chief legal counsel for the past four months, according to the statement. Hood will retain oversight of the company’s land and regulatory departments, Chesapeake said.

“This does seem like a demotion for Henry Hood,” Philip Weiss, an analyst at Argus Research Corp. in New York, said in an e-mailed statement Sept. 21. “Based on what we see here, he’s seen his responsibilities scaled back.”

Hood issued a statement on April 18 that said Chesapeake directors were “fully aware” of the existence of the personal loans McClendon obtained to finance his share of expenses for private stakes in thousands of company wells.

On April 26, Chesapeake backtracked, saying in a statement that although the board was “generally aware” of the CEO’s loans, it hadn’t vetted the arrangements.

The directors announced an internal review of McClendon’s personal transactions the same day. Jim Gipson, a Chesapeake spokesman, didn’t respond to an e-mail or voicemail left at his office outside of regular business hours Sept. 21.


Orrick Hires Five Lawyers for Frankfurt Real Estate Practice

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP announced that Martin Meissner has joined the firm as a partner in its real estate group, along with a team of four lawyers, two of counsel and two associates. Meissner was head of Simmons & Simmons LLP’s German financial markets group and its Frankfurt office, the firm said.

Meissner focuses his practice on real estate project development and transactions. He advises clients on the sale and purchase of commercial real estate portfolios and individual properties, as well as construction and planning during the project development process. He also has broad experience with sale and lease back transactions and private public partnerships.

Orrick’s real estate practice has over 70 lawyers across four offices throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. Lawyers represent clients in all phases of real estate investment, financing, development and operations with an emphasis on joint ventures, acquisitions and dispositions of large real estate portfolios, and complex financings and distressed debt transactions.

Orrick has more than 1,100 lawyers in 25 offices worldwide.

Akin Gump Hires Corporate Partner in Beijing to Head Office

William L. Rosoff has joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as an international corporate transactions partner in the firm’s Beijing office. He was previously at Cozen & O’Connor.

Rosoff will serve as partner in charge of the office, replacing Spencer Griffith, who will maintain his China trade practice from Akin Gump’s Washington office.

Rosoff’s practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, as well as general corporate, infrastructure and China-related matters.

Akin Gump opened a Hong Kong office earlier this year and Roskoff will work with that office and oversee the firm’s corporate and mergers and acquisitions practice in the region. The firm represents Chinese companies seeking to expand overseas as well as foreign companies entering or expanding their investments or operations in China.

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

K&L Gates Hires Two Charlotte Real Estate Finance Partners

K&L Gates LLP hired four lawyers in London and two in Charlotte last week.

In London, partners Matthew G.J. Duncan, Theresa D. Kradjian, and Paul J. Matthews join the firm from Sidley Austin LLP, while Sean J.W. Crosky arrives from Norton Rose LLP.

In Charlotte, Stacy G. Ackermann and Nachael L. Bright join the office as partners in the firm’s real-estate investment, development and finance practice. Both join the firm from Alston & Bird LLP.

Duncan represents clients such as lenders, investment and commercial banks, funds, issuers, borrowers, trustees, insurers, and others in finance matters, with a focus on residential mortgage-backed securities, covered bonds, and the establishment of new lending platforms.

Kradjian advises on a range of asset-backed and residential mortgage-backed financings.

Matthews concentrates on derivatives, advising on innovating and developing the role of swaps and repurchase agreements in cross-border finance transactions.

Crosky advises such clients on a variety of securitization, loan, restructuring, and finance transactions, including those involving derivatives and other tax-structured products.

In Charlotte, Ackermann and Bright focus on commercial mortgage-backed securities, syndicated lending, structured finance, and loan servicing-related matters.

Ackermann represents lenders, servicers, and investors in many aspects of financial and credit market transactions, with particular emphasis on loan servicing and workouts.

Bright concentrates her practice in capital markets transactions, representing institutional lenders, finance companies, and loan portfolio servicers on a variety of secured and unsecured financial transactions.

The firm has nearly 2,000 lawyers in 41 offices in North America, Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Lawyer Joins McDermott

McDermott Will & Emery LLP announced that Mashhood Rassam joined the firm’s intellectual property litigation practice group, as a partner in the Silicon Valley office. He was previously at Fenwick & West LLP.

Rassam focuses his practice on patent litigation. He has has experience litigating patents in federal courts across the county, including in the Federal Circuit, the Eastern District of Texas, the District of Delaware, the Northern and Central Districts of California, and the District of Oregon.

McDermott has more than 1,000 lawyers with 17 offices worldwide. Bird & Bird Hires Corporate Partner in Frankfurt

Bird & Bird LLP hired a 10th new partner to its international corporate group this year, Ingo Meyer, who joins the Frankfurt office.

Meyer specializes in corporate acquisitions as well as disposals and advises private equity funds. Meyer brings two lawyers with him, an of counsel and associate.

Bird & Bird has over 900 lawyers in 23 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Cooley LLP Hires Reston, Virginia, Business Partner

Cooley LLP announced that Geoff Willard has joined the Reston, Virginia, office as a partner in the business department. Willard, who practiced with Cooley previously from 2000 through 2005, returns to the firm from VLP Law Group LLP where he headed that firm’s corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions group firm said.

Willard has experience representing emerging growth companies, their investors, managers, and boards in a wide range of corporate, securities, and commercial transactional matters. His practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt financings, joint ventures and strategic alliances and other corporate matters, both domestic and cross-border.

The firm has 11 U.S. offices and an office in Shanghai.

Former Wal-Mart Intellectual Property Head Hired by Rimon

Rimon PC hired Wade Savoy, a former Assistant General Counsel of Intellectual Property at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., as a partner in its new New Orleans office.

Savoy was head of Wal-Mart’s intellectual property group where he helped to grow the practice to more than a dozen attorneys and staff. During his tenure, he oversaw an international portfolio of over 10,000 trademark applications and registrations, including many brands that gross billions of dollars each year. He also analyzed claims of infringement and developed and conducted the first mandatory intellectual property training program.

Savoy heads and opens the New Orleans office for Rimon, which is the 11th office opened by the firm.


Banker Breakups Seen Spurring Revisions of U.K. Divorce Laws

Wealthy Britons going through a divorce may benefit from a review of U.K. court standards that some lawyers argue promote unfairly generous rulings in favor of less well-off spouses.

An inquiry by the Law Commission, an advisory body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, is the first step toward reversing a trend that’s made Britain the “divorce capital of the world,” said Louise Spitz, an attorney with Manches LLP in London. The commission may submit a draft statute to Parliament next year.

A lack of judicial standards and the arbitrary nature of divorce cases stem from a 12-year-old court ruling, lawyers said. The commission’s review also comes six months after an appeals court ruling in the high-profile case of JPMorgan Chase & Co. equity analyst Peter Lawrence. He won a decision cutting by 9 percent to 1.37 million pounds ($2.22 million) a payout to his civil partner of 11 years, former “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” star Donald Gallagher.

“English courts have the reputation of being very generous to the divorcing partner with less money, often with capital assets being divided equally and the wealthier spouse having to pay long-term maintenance,” Spitz said. “The system is very unpredictable and varies from one court to another.”

Divorce judges may have an easier time resolving cases if the law included a clear definition of “needs” in relation to a spouse’s living requirements, the commission said in a Sept. 11 statement.

The review of U.K. divorce law was triggered in part by the case of German heiress Katrin Radmacher and ex-JPMorgan investment banker Nicolas Granatino, lawyers said. In October 2010, the U.K. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that a U.S.-style pre-nuptial agreement on asset-division, reached before marriage, should be decisive.

In London, it’s common for big divorce payouts to go to partners with less money even if that spouse is relatively young, the relationship was brief and there aren’t children, Gallagher’s lawyer, Katie O’Callaghan, said.

“People actively try to get divorced in this country because if they are the financially weak party, they can expect a bigger payment,” said O’Callaghan, who declined to comment on how the review might affect her client’s case, which may still be appealed. Sarah Higgins, Lawrence’s lawyer with Charles Russell LLP in London, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

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