Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP hired a Washington team of white collar attorneys formerly of White & Case LLP and led by former acting U.S. Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III.
Also joining as partners in the litigation department are white collar investigations and litigation practitioners Daniel Levin, Matthew Miner, and Robert J. Bittman.
“Coming on the heels of our extensive international expansion in 2012, the arrival of this team -- led by one of the world’s foremost Washington-based white collar and government investigations lawyers -- offers our clients a unique and valuable combination of capabilities,” said firm Chairman Francis M. Milone.
Terwilliger, former head of White & Case’s global white collar practice group, has represented energy, financial services, telecommunication, health care and industrial companies in government investigations and in civil and criminal litigation.
Levin has worked on internal investigations involving allegations of accounting irregularities, options backdating and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He has also held positions in the government including senior associate counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council; acting assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel; chief of staff to Attorney General William Barr; and chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Miner focuses his practice on white collar enforcement and compliance matters, as well as congressional inquiries and committee investigations, the firm said. Before going into private practice, Miner advised the U.S. Senate in a number of roles, including as minority staff director to the Senate Judiciary Committee and, earlier, as majority chief counsel for crime, terrorism and oversight to the same committee.
Bittman represents companies and individuals in connection with criminal and regulatory investigations before the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, Commerce and Treasury, as well as in parallel civil and administrative proceedings. His areas of focus include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, international data privacy laws and corporate governance. Bittman was deputy independent counsel for the Office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr.
Morgan Lewis has more than 1,600 lawyers and professionals in 24 offices across the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Reed Smith Hires Employment Partner in Pittsburgh
Reed Smith LLP hired Beth M. Henke as a partner in the labor and employment practice in Pittsburgh. She was previously at Marcus & Shapira LLP.
Henke handles the defense of employment-related actions in federal and state tribunals. She has also been involved in Sarbanes-Oxley litigation, as well as defended class and collective actions involving wage and hour and discrimination issues. Her expertise includes traditional labor and employment matters, such as labor arbitrations and negotiations, union organizing campaigns, union avoidance campaigns, and National Labor Relations Board litigation.
Reed Smith has more than 1,700 lawyers in 23 offices throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Barnes & Thornburg Hires Minneapolis Corporate Partner
Joe R. Thompson joined Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Minneapolis office as a partner in the corporate department. He was previously at Stoel Rives LLP, where he was a partner and chairman of the agriculture and food initiative, the firm said.
Thompson focuses his practice on advising agribusiness, food processing and renewable energy clients on joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures and related commercial transactions. He also has experience with strategic business entity structuring and restructuring, project development matters, private and public equity capitalization, debt financing, and co-packing, supply and tolling agreements.
Barnes & Thornburg has 12 U.S. offices.
NFL Asks Judge to Dismiss Vilma Move to Disqualify Tagliabue
The National Football League said there’s no basis for disqualifying its former commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, from arbitrating a dispute over New Orleans Saints player Jonathan Vilma’s full-season suspension for alleged bounty-hunting.
The NFL called the move to take Tagliabue off the case an “untoward and baseless demand” that has “no merit,” according to a filing Oct. 26 in federal court in New Orleans.
Vilma argued in court filings this week that Tagliabue has a conflict of interest because he is a senior counsel with the law firm representing the current NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. Vilma also said the firm, Covington & Burling LLP, has represented the NFL since at least 2006 and collected millions of dollars in legal fees from the league.
“Tagliabue now has been placed in a position of presiding over a matter in which one of his firm’s most important clients, the NFL, and one of his longtime colleagues have an undeniable interest,” Vilma’s attorneys said in a court filing.
The NFL claimed that about two dozen Saints players paid one another as much as $1,500 for trying to injure opposing players including quarterback Brett Favre. The players have denied the league’s allegations.
The league announced Tagliabue’s appointment as appellate arbitrator on Oct. 19. He will decide whether Goodell’s disciplinary ruling was proper.
Tagliabue served as NFL commissioner from 1989 until 2006, when Goodell replaced him.
The NFL said that Tagliabue hasn’t represented the league in any matter since returning to Covington & Burling in 2007.
“Commissioner Tagliabue has had no personal involvement in the investigation, arbitration or litigation of the bounty matter,” NFL lawyers said in the filing.
The league said it will be represented by the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP at an appellate hearing for Vilma and the other three players set for Oct. 30.
The case is Vilma v. Goodell, 12-1283, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
California Withdraws Mitchell as Mediator in PG&E Pipe Talks
The California Public Utilities Commission withdrew a proposal for former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to serve as mediator in settlement talks with PG&E Corp. over potential fines from a 2010 pipeline blast.
Mitchell was removed after consumer advocacy groups and the cities of San Bruno and San Francisco objected to his selection, the commission said in a statement. The groups said they weren’t consulted on Mitchell’s selection and his law firm, DLA Piper LLP, had a conflict of interest in the case.
An explosion on a PG&E natural gas pipeline killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno in September 2010. The California commission suspended hearings into PG&E’s role in the pipeline blast earlier this month in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement on penalties.
“Unless a stipulation can be reached, I am worried it might take until mid-next year before these cases can be concluded in the normal litigation manner,” Michael Peevey, president of the commission, said in the statement. “We want justice and remedies much sooner than that, to get closure and true justice for the people of San Bruno.”
PG&E “supports settlement negotiations and we will continue to support them as a party to this process,” Brittany Chord, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based utility, said in a telephone interview.
The withdrawal of the mediator “indicates that the negotiations could be in a more difficult position” as “several parties now seem to be voicing more skepticism about the role the CPUC might be playing in the negotiations,” said Paul Patterson, a New York-based utility analyst with Glenrock Associates LLC, in an e-mailed statement.
Berlusconi Sentenced to Prison for Mediaset Tax Fraud
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who describes himself as the most persecuted man in history, was found guilty of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison in a film-rights case involving his Mediaset SpA television company.
Berlusconi’s lawyers, Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, called the verdict “absolutely incredible” and “lacking legal logic,” in an e-mailed statement. They plan to file an appeal of the decision, and said “they trust” that a higher court will overturn the verdict. Berlusconi can appeal the verdict two more times under Italian law.
It is unlikely that Berlusconi will serve any jail time given his age, 76, and the Italian appeals process, which can run out the statute of limitations. The court pardoned three years of the sentence. He was also barred from public office for five years, according to a sentence read Oct. 26 by a judge in Milan.
“He won’t go to jail because criminal sentences in the first instance aren’t executed if an appeal is presented within 15 days,” said Fabio Belloni, a criminal lawyer who previously defended Parmalat Chairman Calisto Tanzi in Italy’s biggest bankruptcy case.
“‘The sentence remains suspended until the end of the appeals process. The same thing with the ban from public office,’’ he said.
The ruling comes as Berlusconi faces another trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor. The revelations about his relationship with a 17-year-old Milan nightclub dancer and the so-called Bunga Bunga parties he threw at his Milan residence led to a slump in his popularity last year that contributed to his resignation as prime minister in November.
‘‘There will be consequences,’’ Berlusconi said Oct. 27 in an interview on the news bulletin of his Mediaset Spa’s Canale 5 when asked to comment on the verdict. ‘‘I feel forced to remain in politics to reform the justice system, so that what happened to me will not happen to other citizens.’’
Mergers to Get Boost in 2013 Regardless of Election, Varney Says
Merger activity will see a boost next year, said the former chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust unit, Christine Varney, head of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s antitrust practice. She predicted that the winner of the White House won’t have a significant impact on the field.
‘‘I see it very, very busy in my own practice,” Varney said in a panel Oct. 25 at the Bloomberg Dealmakers Summit in New York, at which she and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt downplayed the impact of the presidential election.
Varney, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General, said she has half a dozen projects brewing and has observed the availability of “a lot of capital on the sidelines,” especially in areas such as emerging industries looking to augment portfolios. She predicts “a lot of M&A” in 2013.
Levitt, a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group LP and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a board member of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, dismissed arguments that President Barack Obama’s administration has been heavy-handed with new rules, saying “regulation is on shakier ground that it’s been in many, many years.”
“The congressional committees that oversee the regulators are universally in the pockets of the companies being regulated,” Levitt said, accusing Congress of pushing such laws as the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act that threatens investor safety. “Investors have never been more exposed.”
Buffett’s Berkshire Wins ResCap Auction With $1.5 Billion Offer
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP partners Thomas B. Walper, Seth Goldman, Mary Ann Todd and Brett J. Rodda advised Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which won an auction for a portfolio of Residential Capital LLC’s loans with a $1.5 billion bid, adding to Warren Buffett’s bet on a housing market recovery.
Morrison & Foerster LLP is ResCap’s law firm handling the bankruptcy case. Partners include Larren Nashelsky, Gary Lee, Lorenzo Marinuzzi, Todd Goren and Norman Rosenbaum.
The competing bidder was a group that included a unit of Credit Suisse Group AG, according to two people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
ResCap auctioned its mortgage-servicing business to Ocwen Financial Corp. on Oct. 24 for $3 billion. Ocwen beat Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. in an auction that would create at least the fifth-largest U.S. mortgage servicer.
Mayer Brown LLP served as primary deal counsel to Ocwen Loan Servicing. Banking and finance partners Jon Van Gorp as well as John Lawlor and corporate and securities/mergers and acquisitions partner Bill Kucera worked on the deal.
Ally Financial Inc., a Detroit-based auto lender majority owned by U.S. taxpayers, allowed its New York-based ResCap unit to file for bankruptcy in May to distance itself from the mortgage lender’s losses and help repay its 2008 bailout following the U.S. housing crash and subsequent credit crisis. Ally was previously owned by General Motors Corp.
ResCap’s board approved Berkshire’s offer for the portfolio of about 47,000 whole loans as the “highest and best bid,” according to a statement. The agreement must now be approved by the bankruptcy court. A hearing is set for Nov. 19. The two auctions were expected to generate about $4 billion, ResCap said in a May 14 statement announcing its bankruptcy.
The case is In re Residential Capital LLC, 12-12020, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Kilpatrick Townsend Opens Shanghai Office for IP Work
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP opened an office in Shanghai which will be led by Kenneth Chang, an intellectual property attorney who has practiced for more than 10 years in the firm’s Denver office.
Charles Gray, an intellectual property associate in the same office, also has relocated permanently to Shanghai.
“Kilpatrick Townsend’s internationally recognized intellectual property department, with over 300 attorneys, is committed to creating a significant presence in this burgeoning area of the world,” said Paul Aguggia, Kilpatrick Townsend’s chairman. “The Shanghai office creates an outstanding opportunity for growth. A presence here, along with our offices in Tokyo and Taiwan, is critical to giving direct access to the region’s key markets.”
Chang focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation and counseling. He has experience litigating matters related to semiconductor processing and equipment, circuitry design, software and medical devices both in Federal Court and before the U.S. International Trade Commission, the firm said.
Kilpatrick has 18 offices in the U.S., the Middle East and Asia.
Herbert Smith Freehills to Open Office in Guinea
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP is opening an office in Conakry, the capital of Guinea in West Africa, in early 2013.
Bertrand Montembault, a projects partner for Africa currently based in the firm’s Paris office, will initially be heading the office. He will be assisted by senior associate Salimatou Diallo. The office will have a regional focus on corporate and projects work in West Africa.
Legacy Herbert Smith was active in Africa for three decades, the firm said, and developing a particular reputation among firms looking to invest in Francophone West Africa. Herbert Smith advised Bharti Airtel on its $10.7 billion acquisition of the 15 African mobile networks of Zain Africa, the firm said. The firm also advised Rio Tinto on many aspects of the Simandou iron ore integrated project in Guinea.
Legacy Freehills also worked in Africa, particularly on resources projects and also in the areas of finance, infrastructure and disputes, the firm said. The firm advised AMCOL International Corporation on its agreement to acquire Chrome Corp. Ltd.’s 74 percent interest in the Ruighoek chrome project in South Africa for $41 million. The firm also advised South African AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. on its proposed A$4.5 billion ($4.7 billion) hostile takeover bid of Normandy Mining Ltd.
“Having a presence in Guinea is a clear demonstration of our commitment to being a firm that works in Africa through Africa, and we want both our clients and local communities to benefit from this presence,” Stephane Brabant, the head of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Africa practice, said in a statement.
Herbert Smith Freehills has more than 2,800 lawyers in more than 20 offices across Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
BBC Faces Lawsuits by TV Star’s Alleged Sex-Abuse Victims
The British Broadcasting Corp. may be weighed down for years by a wave of civil lawsuits and reputational damage resulting from allegations of decades of sexual abuse of children by former television star Jimmy Savile.
London police are probing allegations that Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, may have abused more than 300 people as early as 1959. Claims may reach the BBC’s highest ranks if there was a cover-up to save its reputation, said Mark Burden, a liability insurance director at Prime Professions Ltd.
“If there’s some systemic issue about the way the institution was being run, obviously the directors or officers who were there at the time could be held accountable,” Burden said in London. “From a reputational point of view, you just don’t know how that’s going to affect the business going forward. It could have significant consequences.”
The BBC, the world’s largest public broadcaster, is running internal probes and cooperating with police and lawmakers investigating the incidents. It seeks to avoid the type of damage that befell News Corp.’s U.K. publisher after civil lawsuits revealed that a phone-hacking conspiracy, with hundreds of victims, had been covered up for years by executives.
Savile’s alleged victims “deserve their day in court,” said Liz Dux, a lawyer at Russell Jones & Walker Solicitors, who is representing at least 10 people. Many of the potential claimants have said they told people years earlier about the abuse and “weren’t believed,” Dux said.
“The victims feel somewhat robbed, because he obviously cannot be prosecuted and cannot give evidence -- he’s not there to suffer the repercussions,” Dux said of Savile.
BBC Trust spokeswoman Hannah Murdoch declined to comment on potential suits, saying it may conflict with the internal investigations.
Previous attempts to investigate Savile failed. A woman called the Metropolitan Police in 2003 claiming Savile touched her inappropriately in the 1970s, though she didn’t file a complaint, Commander Peter Spindler said Oct. 25. Prosecutors who reviewed similar claims in 2007 didn’t press charges.
The scandal was brought to light in a documentary by broadcaster ITV Plc this month that featured several women accusing the host of BBC’s “Top of the Pops” music show of sexual abuse when they were teens. Savile, who was knighted in 1990, also fronted “Jim’ll Fix It,” which granted children’s wishes, such as meeting celebrities.
The BBC will probably be sued for negligence in failing to stop the TV star and may be forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of pounds” to each victim, said David Foster, a lawyer with Barlow Robbins LLP in Guildford, England, who isn’t involved in the cases.
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