Goodwin Procter, Kaye Scholer to Move Offices: Business of Law

Two law firms announced plans last week to move offices in their home cities.

Goodwin Procter LLP is relocating its Boston office to a new waterfront high rise, while Kaye Scholer LLP is moving from the east side to the west side of Manhattan.

Goodwin Procter signed a letter of intent to occupy all of the commercial space in a half-million-square-foot tower at Fan Pier on Boston Harbor. The firm’s 860 attorneys and professional staff will move to the new space in 2016.

“After closely examining a range of options, we believe that Goodwin’s move to the ‘Innovation District’ will bring significant benefits to our employees, the city of Boston and the firm,” Alex Randall, head of Goodwin’s real estate leasing practice and lead partner on the project, said in a statement.

The 100-year old firm is now at Exchange Place. The new location is a 21-acre (8.5 hectare) site that spans nine city blocks. It’s expected to have eight high-rise commercial and residential towers.

Meanwhile, Kaye Scholer is leaving its New York offices at 425 Park Avenue after 55 years for a new building on Manhattan’s West Side. Founded in New York in 1917, the firm has more than 450 attorneys in nine offices in the U.S., U.K., Germany and China. Its New York office remains the largest, with approximately 285 attorneys.

The firm signed a 20-year lease with Boston Properties for the space at 250 West 55th Street, which is still under construction, and expects to move into its new office in 2014.

Kaye Scholer managing partner Michael Solow said in a statement: “We decided on this space because of its midtown location; Boston Properties’ reputation as a landlord that understands the demands of the legal world; the flexible design and efficiency of the building; quick access to a multitude of top-level services and public transportation options; and close proximity to Central Park, Time Warner Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and other arts facilities that help make New York a cultural haven.”

Mayer Brown Partner Durkin Confirmed as U.S. District Judge

Mayer Brown LLP partner Thomas M. Durkin, a Chicago-based litigator, was unanimously confirmed by the U. S. Senate as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Illinois. He will be sworn in on Jan. 14.

Durkin was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2012 after being recommended by Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

“Throughout his career, Tom Durkin has demonstrated strong leadership in his community and a solid commitment to public service,” Senator Durbin said in a statement. “The non-partisan American Bar Association awarded Mr. Durkin its highest rating of ‘unanimously well-qualified.’ I couldn’t agree more.”

On the bench of the Chicago-based Northern District, Durkin will join four former Mayer Brown partners: District Judges Robert Dow Jr., Gary Feinerman and John Tharp and Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan. Durkin and Dow, Tharp and Finnegan spent their entire careers in private practice at Mayer Brown.

Durkin has tried more than 55 federal and state jury trials to verdict. Much of his trial work has focused on business litigation, along with class action, products liability and medical device defense, and patent litigation. He has also handled white-collar criminal matters, especially in the fraud, tax and public corruption areas. He was assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois from 1980 to 1993.

“While Tom will be greatly missed by all of us at Mayer Brown and by the clients he has served so well and faithfully, we all will benefit greatly from the wise choice made by President Obama, Senators Durbin and Kirk and the Senate,” Mayer Brown chairman Paul Theiss said in a statement.


SouthGobi Chief Lawyer Cleared of Corruption in Mongolia Probe

SouthGobi Resources Ltd., controlled by a unit of Rio Tinto Group, said its chief lawyer, Sarah Armstrong, has been cleared in a probe by the Mongolian Independent Authority Against Corruption and is free to leave the country after being prevented since October.

The coal mining company, based in Vancouver, remains under investigation for “the divestment of certain SouthGobi licenses to third parties, and the involvement and conduct of government officials in connection with this,” according to a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Dec. 24.

SouthGobi fell 1.6 percent to HK$15.58 at the early Christmas-eve close in Hong Kong.

Armstrong is the company’s chief legal counsel.

Lawyers Vie With Chamber of Commerce on Damages Deduction: Taxes

Democrats in Congress are renewing an effort to repeal the tax deduction companies are allowed to take when a jury slaps them with punitive damages.

Debate over the issue, which pits trial lawyers against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, may be rekindled in 2013 as part of comprehensive legislation to overhaul the tax code, Bloomberg BNA reported. Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, introduced legislation last week to end the tax break.

The deduction became a target after the BP Plc Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 prompted speculation, which proved unfounded, that the company might reap a tax benefit from the fallout. The Obama administration has repeatedly proposed repealing the deduction, arguing that allowing a tax break contradicts the idea of discouraging the conduct that led to the awarding of damages in the first place.

“We don’t think any corporation should get a tax break for atrocious behavior,” said Christopher Scholl, communications director for the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers.

Under Internal Revenue Code Section 162, businesses are allowed to deduct punitive damages as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Legislation to remove the deduction, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in 2010, has hit resistance in the Republican-led House, where Welch has introduced similar legislation in the past.

Defenders of the writeoff, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say that repeal would be the equivalent of creating an additional federal fine, and that corporations would probably pass along the added cost to their customers.

Denying deductions for punitive damages “imposes increased costs on businesses, forcing them to spend more money litigating claims and thus forgoing their ability to use these funds to stimulate job creation and economic growth,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President R. Bruce Josten wrote to members of Congress in 2010.

The bills are H.R. 6700 and S. 794.

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China Vanadium Parent Makes Buyout Offer of HK$2.06 Billion

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP led by partners Kay Ian Ng, in Hong Kong and Gwen Wong in Beijing, advised China Vanadium Titano-Magnetite Mining Co., the largest non-state-owned iron ore producer in Sichuan province, which said its parent made a buyout offer of as much as HK$2.06 billion ($266 million).

The company will delist if the offer of HK$1.93 a share in cash is completed, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing Dec. 20. The buyout by Trisonic International Ltd. is subject to shareholders’ approval, it said.

China Vanadium said it will delist because of low trading volume and poor share-price performance. The average number of shares trading hands fell to 5.3 million in the six months before the company first proposed the buyout on Nov. 1, from 13.7 million in the first half-year after the stock debuted on Oct. 8, 2009. The shares have fallen 52 percent since listing.

The stock gained 1.2 percent to close at HK$1.67 on Dec. 19, its last day of trading before suspension.

China Vanadium didn’t disclose its net asset value per share in the filing. Its net assets attributable to shareholders were 3.33 billion yuan as of June 30, according to the Dec. 20 filing, about HK$4.14 billion at today’s exchange rate. That gives about a HK$2 NAV per share, based on its 2.08 billion shares outstanding.

Sapphire Corp. is acting together with Trisonic in the buyout offer.


Tax Attorney Joins White & Williams in New York

John J. Eagan, an attorney who specializes in taxation, with an emphasis on international, corporate transactional and tax controversy matters, joined White & Williams LLP as a partner in New York. Prior to joining White & Williams, Eagan was a member of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus PA.

Eagan provides general business tax counseling and planning on issues such as business and tax structures for foreign investment in the U.S., outbound transactions and controlled foreign corporation issues, and offshore account compliance issues. He has represented clients in more than 125 transactions in a variety of industries and countries, and he advises clients on effective planning approaches to minimize taxation.

White & Williams has 225 lawyers in nine offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts.


Lawyers in $20 Million Facebook Accord Seek $7.7 Million Fee

Lawyers for Facebook Inc. users who negotiated a $20 million settlement with the social network company over claims that it used subscribers’ names without their permission are seeking $7.7 million in fees.

California attorneys Robert Arns and Jonathan Jaffe, who represented five Facebook users suing over the free service’s practice of using subscribers’ names without their permission to advertise products in its “Sponsored Stories,” said the fee was fair given relief provided in the settlement and the risks they undertook to achieve it, according to a court filing.

Facebook users can claim a $10 payment and the company agreed to make changes allowing subscribers to opt out of sponsored stories, according to filings in federal court in San Francisco. Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, also agreed to revise its terms of use so subscribers can more easily see when they’re being shown as endorsers of products and games for which they clicked a “like” button.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg gave preliminary approval to the settlement. He refused to approve an earlier settlement that included no money for users and $10 million in fees for the attorneys.

The case is Fraley v. Facebook Inc., 11-cv-01726, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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