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Choate Hall, WilmerHale, Simpson Thacher: Business of Law

Choate Hall & Stewart LLP announced that all of the partners in Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP’s private-client practice will join Choate’s wealth-management group.

Choate expects that associates and other staff will accompany the four partners, who will move to the new firm in the beginning of December. The new Choate partners are Jennifer C. Snyder, Nan Giner, Michael L. Fay and Brian W. Monnich.

“We have a long and deep relationship with WilmerHale, and are thrilled to add this outstanding team of top-notch wealth management professionals,” William Gelnaw and John Nadas, co-managing partners at Choate, said in a statement. “Bringing together our two preeminent wealth management practices will benefit all of our clients, and will enable us to continue to grow materially this priority practice area at Choate.”

The group will join Choate’s wealth management team, comprising more than 50 lawyers, investment professionals, tax preparers, trust and estate administrators, and other client service staff.

“The transition of our private-client practice makes good business sense for our team and for Choate,” said Susan Murley, co-managing partner at WilmerHale. “As a stand-alone practice at WilmerHale, we are pleased to see our private-client team joining a law firm that has an established, robust and industry-leading reputation in wealth management. We wish members of our private client practice well as they make this transition.”

Choate has 175 attorneys in its Boston office.

Law Firms Eating More Costs, Bloomberg Survey Says

It’s getting much tougher for law firms to get paid back by clients for their legal research costs, a new Bloomberg Law survey of almost 100 firms has found.

Forty-three percent of firms say they have to absorb more of their costs today than they did in 2010.

A number of participants noted that an increasing number of clients do not want to pay for online research, a trend they claim started with insurance companies.

To see the video, click here.


U.K.’s Top Fraud Prosecutor to Aggressively Gather Intelligence

David Green, who took over as the director of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office in April, told lawmakers that he wants the agency to be “far more aggressive” with intelligence gathering.

The SFO should be seeking “all sorts of exotic intelligence” to use in their investigations by working with other agencies, Green said yesterday at a hearing of Parliament’s Justice Committee about changes he’s making at the agency.

“In the new landscape we simply can’t work in silos, we have to work together, and it’s happening,” he said, citing cooperation with the Financial Services Authority, Crown Prosecution Service and City of London Police on a Libor probe.

Green brought in new staff and managers when he replaced Richard Alderman, who stepped down when his four-year term as director was complete. Green is also seeking to revamp the type of cases the SFO handles, saying in an interview at his office last week that it has focused too heavily on boiler-room and mortgage-fraud cases that are better handled by the CPS.

Under Alderman, the SFO was criticized for taking on several high-profile cases, including probes into American International Group Inc.’s Financial Products unit and Bernard Madoff’s London operations, only to close them later citing a lack of evidence. Green has shut down probes into the failure of the Iceland’s Kaupthing hf and the U.K. property investors Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz.

The SFO is currently investigating attempts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate and similar benchmarks; claims of bribery at a European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. unit in Britain, Barclays Plc and an Alstom SA unit; and the collapse of the hedge fund Weavering Capital (U.K.) Ltd.

For more, click here.


Blackstone, LLOG Agree $1.2 Billion Gulf of Mexico Oil Deal

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is representing Blackstone Group LP, which started a partnership with LLOG Exploration Co., a closely held oil company, to invest more than $1.2 billion in offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico. Haynes & Boone LLP advised LLOG.

Houston corporate partner Andy Calder is leading the Simpson Thacher team. Other partners on the deal included Gary Mandel, tax; David Rubinsky, ECEB and Robert Rabalais, credit.

The cash will be used to speed up development of four deepwater discoveries as well as for new exploration and buying more assets, according to a statement yesterday. Covington, Louisiana-based LLOG said it’s one of the largest private operators in the Gulf, with an exploration success rate of 70 percent.

“With Blackstone’s team, extensive capital resources, oil and gas expertise and industry resources, we will be able to take our business activity levels and assets to the next level,” said Scott Gutterman, chief executive officer of LLOG.

Production from LLOG’s Who Dat discovery, which holds as much as 300 million barrels of oil equivalent, is excluded from the partnership. LLOG said it started production from the field last year.

Blackstone, the New York-based private-equity firm, in September completed gathering $2.5 billion for its debut energy fund, Blackstone Energy Partners. Blackstone has more than $205 billion in assets under management, it said in the statement.

Lucasfilm’s Lawyer Says George Lucas ’Only Spoke With Disney’

Christopher Kaufman, partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, talks about his representation of Lucasfilm Ltd. in its $4.05 billion acquisition by Walt Disney Co.

Kaufman, speaking with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck, discusses how George Lucas’s 100 percent stake in Lucasfilm Ltd. made negotiations “difficult” and “time-consuming.”

To listen to the report, click here.


Emirati M&A and Corporate Lawyer Joins White & Case

White & Case LLP hired Emirati national Abdulwahid Al Ulama, a United Arab Emirates-qualified mergers and acquisitions lawyer, as a partner in Abu Dhabi.

Al Ulama is the first Emirati partner to join a major international law firm in Abu Dhabi, White & Case said. He previously was in a commercial finance role with Mubadala GE Capital. He is also a former partner of Al Tamimi & Co. and former group chief legal officer of Dubai World Group. He is a certified arbitrator with the Dubai International Arbitration Center and the International Chamber of Commerce.

“As an Emirati national and highly regarded UAE-qualified lawyer with over 12 years’ experience in both industry and the legal profession, Abdulwahid significantly bolsters our local presence, and enhances our ability to deliver UAE law expertise to both leading UAE-based businesses and our global clients seeking to do business in the UAE,” Francois Leloup, regional section head for mergers and acquisitions/corporate in Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement.

Al Ulama’s experience also includes financial regulation, capital markets, banking and finance, projects, real estate, litigation and arbitration.

The White & Case Abu Dhabi office, led by Margaret B. Cole, has six partners based there. The firm has lawyers in 38 offices in 26 countries worldwide.

Davis Polk Adds Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyer in London

Mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance lawyer Will Pearce joins Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as a partner in the London office. He was previously at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.

Pearce represents companies and financial advisers in public and private mergers and acquisitions and restructuring matters, as well as issuers, selling shareholders and underwriters on a range of securities transactions.

Earlier this year, Davis Polk hired capital markets lawyer Simon Witty and tax lawyer Jonathan Cooklin in its English law practice.

“Will is another tremendous addition to our English law team in London,” said Thomas J. Reid, Davis Polk’s managing partner. “His skill and experience with intricate cross-border takeovers and combinations meshes perfectly with our global M&A practice.”

Davis Polk’s London office opened in 1972. The firm has more than 800 lawyers in offices in the U.S., Europe, Sao Paulo and Asia.

Twitter Hires Google Deputy General Counsel Wong

Google Inc. deputy general counsel Nicole Wong joined Twitter, according to a tweet she posted.

At Google, Wong helped decide what controversial materials appear on Google and in local search engines, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Wong will be legal director at Twitter, reporting to general counsel Alex Macgillivray, the newspaper reported.

Wong was an associate at Perkins Coie LLP before joining Google.


Fund Managers Used Corrupt Chain to Make Big Money, Jury Is Told

Level Global co-founder Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman, a former fund manager for Diamondback Capital Management LLC, used a “corrupt chain” of insiders at public companies to make more than $70 million for their funds, a prosecutor told a jury at the start of the men’s trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Tarlowe said yesterday in opening statements in federal court in Manhattan that Chiasson and Newman were part of a group of portfolio managers, analysts and technology company employees who were friends and reaped millions of dollars by trading on illegal stock tips in Dell Inc. and Nvidia Corp.

Four members of the group agreed to plead guilty and will testify for the government, Tarlowe said.

Chiasson made more than $57 million trading on Dell and about $10 million on Nvidia, the prosecutor said. Newman made about $3.8 million from Dell trades and earned about $48,000 on Nvidia, he said.

“They used a corrupt chain of people to get the information into the hands of the defendants,” Tarlowe said. “The defendants chose to break the law. Why? Because they wanted to make big money for themselves and for their hedge funds.”

Chiasson and Newman are charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and five counts of securities fraud. The latter crime is punishable by as long as 20 years in prison. Both men pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Fishbein, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling LLP, for Newman, said his client didn’t know the information provided to him was obtained illegally.

“Todd Newman worked hard for his hedge fund,” Fishbein said. “He did not cheat. He did not steal. He did not try to get inside information.”

Chiasson’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, told jurors that his client had no idea he was passed illicit nonpublic information.

The case is U.S. v. Newman, 12-cr-00121, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more, click here.

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