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Simmons, Seward & Kissel, Debevoise: Business of Law

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Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Simmons & Simmons LLP has entered into an alliance with U.S. firm Seward & Kissel LLP for hedge fund and asset-management work.

“Our hedge funds teams have worked closely for many years, and this alliance will enhance that relationship, with our partners and senior associates working together on an even more co-ordinated basis,” Simmons & Simmons senior partner Colin Passmore said in a statement.

The alliance combines the hedge fund and asset-management practices of the two firms with lawyers based in London, New York and Hong Kong. Lawyers will assist with fund formation and management and advise on regulation, derivatives, corporate structures, tax, litigation, employment, intellectual property, finance, government investigations and transactions.

Both firms will continue to work with other referral firms. Simmons & Simmons has about 900 lawyers in 17 offices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Seward & Kissel, founded in 1890, has offices in New York and Washington.

Littler Names Visconti San Diego Office Managing Shareholder

Littler Mendelson PC appointed Denise M. Visconti as managing shareholder of the firm’s San Diego office.

Visconti succeeds Jeremy Roth, who served as managing shareholder for a decade. He will take on the role of Littler’s co-managing director and co-president alongside Thomas Bender in January.

Marko Mrkonich, president and managing director of Littler, said of Visconti, “We are excited to have her take the helm of the San Diego office and continue to build on the momentum created during Jeremy’s tenure.”

Visconti handles employment-litigation matters, most often claims arising under the California Labor Code and the Fair Labor Standards Act, the firm said.

Littler Mendelson has more than 900 attorneys in 56 offices.

Deals

Debevoise Advises Global Infrastructure on $8.25 Billion Fund

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP advised Global Infrastructure Partners, the private-equity firm whose holdings include Gatwick Airport in the U.K., in raising $8.25 billion for the largest fund dedicated to infrastructure buyouts.

GIP’s second fund attracted more than its initial target of $7.5 billion as investors expect cash-strapped governments to open the door to private acquisitions of assets, Chairman Adebayo Ogunlesi said in an interview. The firm in 2008 raised $5.64 billion for its first fund, which owns stakes in Australia’s Port of Brisbane and East India Petroleum Ltd.

“Governments are under tremendous fiscal pressure, so they really don’t have the capability to continue to invest,” Ogunlesi said. “Private-sector investment is going to have to fill some of that void.”

The Debevoise team was led by partner Erica Berthou and included partner Peter F.G. Schuur and Richard Ward.

GIP, started by Credit Suisse Group AG and General Electric Co. in 2006, will use the new fund to invest primarily in operating businesses in developed markets, said Ogunlesi, who was head of investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston, the securities unit of Zurich-based Credit Suisse at the time. The firm, which oversees $15 billion, has teams dedicated to investments and the portfolio’s operations and draws on a group of former executives as senior advisers. It focuses on the energy, transport and water and waste industries.

GIP surpassed Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s $6.5 billion infrastructure pool as the industry’s largest, according to Preqin Ltd., a London-based research company. Globally, 142 funds dedicated to infrastructure were raising capital as of Oct. 1, targeting $91.6 billion, Preqin said.

For more, click here.

Moves

McCarter & English Hires Joseph E. Bachelder III and Colleague

Joseph E. Bachelder III, founder and senior partner of the Bachelder Law Firm, and Jerome J. Cohen, a lawyer at the firm, joined McCarter & English LLP’s New York office as special counsel.

Bachelder has represented top executives in employment matters, including former Merrill Lynch & Co. Chief Executive Officer Stan O’Neal when he left the firm in 2007. He said that the decision to combine his firm with McCarter was motivated by a need to expand its expertise.

“Executive compensation today is going through considerable change due to changes in the law (Dodd-Frank, for example) and fundamental changes in the direction of our business enterprises,” he said in an e-mail.

Cohen was of-counsel at the Bachelder Law Firm and advises companies on tax and other legal aspects of their compensation programs for directors, senior executives and other management personnel.

“Joe and Jerry are two of the best executive compensation attorneys in New York and we are thrilled that they chose to join our team,” Mark A. Daniele, leader of McCarter’s tax, employee benefits and private clients group, said in a statement.

The additions bring the number of lawyers in McCarter’s New York office to 42. The firm has about 400 attorneys in Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Stamford, Connecticut; and Wilmington, Delaware.

Steptoe Hires International Arbitration Partner

Steptoe & Johnson LLP hired Pieter Bekker, formerly of Dewey & LeBouef LLP, in the firm’s international arbitration group as a partner.

Bekker, who has 20 years of experience in cross-border dispute resolution, is based in the Brussels office and will regularly work out of Steptoe’s London, Washington and New York offices, the firm said.

Bekker focuses on international dispute risk management and resolution. He has practiced in both Europe and the U.S. in international arbitration matters and advises private and public sector clients on matters relating to international law.

Steptoe has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington.

News

Bank-Friendly U.S. Regulator Shifts to Revamp Reputation

In a stately hearing room stuffed with senators and bankers, Thomas Curry began his apologies. His agency should have stopped a major bank from helping drug cartels launder cash. The violations went on for years while his agency was overly passive, Bloomberg News’ Jesse Hamilton reports.

“I deeply regret we did not act sooner,” he said.

Curry had been on the job for just over three months on that day in July, so the mistakes hadn’t been made on his watch. His apologies were less a confession than a signal the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency -- long seen as the most bank-friendly of U.S. regulators -- was changing course.

Since Curry took over in March, at least two key staff members closely associated with the agency’s pro-industry stance have departed, notably chief counsel Julie Williams. A 19-year OCC veteran, Williams was known for helping nationally chartered banks resist state regulation by arguing they were preempted by often less-stringent federal rules.

Curry has also raised the profile of consumer protection and shifted focus toward “operational risk” -- the idea that bank practices and management can pose as much of a threat to safety and soundness as external forces.

Curry arrived at the OCC in March after eight years on the board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a bank regulator with a different history and mission. The FDIC, founded during the Great Depression, was created to protect depositors from bank runs and other threats. The OCC, on the other hand, was established during the Civil War to create a uniform currency and a system of national banks.

The OCC has long been tagged by critics as a collaborator with U.S. financial giants, including those running the largest national banks: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Curry’s four predecessors all became advisers to the banking industry after they left the job -- three as lawyers in financial-services practices and Eugene Ludwig as founder and chief executive officer of Promontory Financial Group LLC, a Washington-based consulting firm.

Curry, 55, got his start in Massachusetts, working as a lawyer for the secretary of state and rose to serve two stints as the state’s banking commissioner. He also served as chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors in 2000 and 2001.

For more, click here.

Litigation

Wal-Mart Asks Judge to Dismiss Texas Discrimination Lawsuit

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked a federal judge to dismiss a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging the company discriminated against female employees in Texas.

“This is a copycat rerun,” Theodore Boutrous Jr., a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP representing Wal-Mart, told U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor at a hearing in Dallas yesterday. “This is a process the court should not go through.”

“This isn’t the second bite at the apple,” Joseph Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the judge. “It’s the first bite.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Hal Gillespie told the court that the case would bring fresh evidence of practices used in Texas that discriminated against women in promotions. He said they include “the tap on the shoulder,” no posting of positions and a requirement that a promoted employee be willing to relocate, an option that women are less likely to choose than men.

The case is one of four regional suits filed against Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, since the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a nationwide class in June 2011. Similar suits are pending in California, Florida and in a region comprising Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.

O’Connor didn’t immediately rule on Wal-Mart’s dismissal motion, which says the class action is barred by the statute of limitations and repeats claims made in the rejected national class action.

For more, click here.

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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