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Littler, Edwards Wildman, MoFo, Venable: Business of Law

A second wave of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC lawyers, mostly associates, have left the firm for Littler Mendelson LLP as part of an earlier group of departures led by Don Prophete.

Prophete, along with six partners whom the firm calls shareholders, left Ogletree for Littler on April 23. A week after his move, Reuters reported on an e-mail he sent to colleagues and clients stating his dissatisfaction with his former firm’s handling of a discrimination matter involving a female shareholder on his team. According to Reuters, Prophete’s e-mail didn’t identify the female shareholder, the shareholder whom Prophete reported to the firm for the alleged harassment, the office in which the shareholder is a manager or the type of discrimination. Prophete didn’t return a call on May 3 seeking comment.

Ogletree contradicted Prophete’s allegations and said he hadn’t made any claims about harassment or discrimination to the firm, Ogletree said in a May 1 statement. Prophete’s claims came after “the firm voted overwhelmingly for him to leave,” Kim Ebert, a managing shareholder, said in a statement.

On May 3, Littler said that Atlanta shareholder Tamika Nordstrom, along with five associates in various offices, joined Littler. Two associates are from the Kansas City office, where Prophete was based, and an associate from each of the firm’s St. Louis, New York and Philadelphia offices also joined the firm.

Littler said in a statement that Prophete, a former vice president of Ogletree and founding partner of the Kansas City office, was the “catalyst” for the new hires.

Nordstrom, the most recent shareholder to switch firms, declined to comment on alleged harassment incident. “I had a good experience at Ogletree. I don’t leave with any hard feelings,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s just that business opportunities changed for me.”

In a second statement on May 3, Ogletree’s Ebert said while the firm was disappointed by the departures, they had little impact on the firm’s clients or growth.

“It is perhaps worthy of note that this is a far smaller group than Prophete has publicly claimed would follow him,” Ebert said in the statement. “Only four of the 20 lawyers in Kansas City (where Prophete was based) have chosen to join him, and those lawyers who had worked with him the longest have chosen to stay with our firm.”

Nordstrom has experience representing management in labor and employment litigation, including noncompetition and trade secret matters, claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, discrimination and harassment claims, and wage and hour disputes, Littler said in a statement.

“These recent additions further demonstrate our commitment to obtaining high-quality talent as we continue to expand our presence nationally and globally,” Jeremy Roth, co-president and co-managing director of Littler, said in the statement.

Littler has more than 970 attorneys at 57 offices throughout the Americas.

Edwards Wildman Reorganizes Florida Offices; Opens in Miami

Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP opened an office in Miami in a reorganization of its Florida locations. The firm, which has had a West Palm Beach location since 1981, will close its Ft. Lauderdale office and move those attorneys to the Miami and West Palm Beach offices.

“Miami is a global financial and commercial center, and we are excited to better serve our clients in private equity, venture capital and litigation, among other practice areas, from this dynamic international hub,” Jonathan Cole, partner-in-charge of Edwards Wildman’s Florida offices, said in a statement.

Eight of the firm’s Florida-based attorneys will use the Miami office on a regular basis and the firm expects to grow the office through the addition of lateral partners and associates, Heather Fontaine Merton, a firm spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The firm also has had a presence in Gainesville since 2008, though the office is staffed by attorneys from other offices on a rotating basis. The firm has 10 lawyers in Florida, seven of them partners.

Edwards Wildman has 625 lawyers at 15 offices in the U.S., London and Asia.

MoFo’s Johnston Moves From London to Head Palo Alto Office

Morrison & Foerster LLP named trial lawyer Alan Cope Johnston, who has been at the firm for 35 years, managing partner of the Palo Alto office. Johnston, who was most recently a resident in London, held the position before, when he opened the office for MoFo in 1985. He succeeds Christopher Eide, who led the office for the past two years.

“He has been an invaluable leader in every position he has held and we are pleased to welcome him home to Palo Alto where innovation is rooted,” Larren Nashelsky, chair of Morrison & Foerster, said of Johnston.

Johnston’s practice focuses on disputes involving patent infringement, trade secret theft and technology licensing. He previously held leadership positions, including founding and serving as managing partner of both the firm’s Washington and Palo Alto offices, head of the Tokyo litigation group, managing partner of the Northern Virginia office and co-head of the firm’s intellectual property litigation group, the firm said.

“I am delighted to be back in Palo Alto,” Johnston said in a statement. “The move brings an exciting opportunity to expand the firm’s core strengths representing both global corporations and emerging technology companies in tech-focused corporate and M&A transactions and life sciences work, and complex IP litigation and counseling.”

Morrison & Foerster has more than 1,000 lawyers at 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.


John Keker Jumps Ship in Pollution Fight Against Chevron

Faced with an enormous 2011 oil-pollution verdict in Ecuador, Chevron Corp. turned the tables on its main legal foe, launching a fierce counter-attack against the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer in federal court in New York. That onslaught raised serious questions about the tactics that activist attorney, Steven Donziger, an American, employed to win the $19 billion judgment in Ecuador, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Paul M. Barrett writes.

Now it has cost Donziger some of his most important lawyer-allies in the U.S., who have quit the fight, saying they lack the resources and will to battle Chevron. Among them are John Keker, of Keker & Van Nest LLP.

Donziger, who practices by himself from his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, engineered the largest environmental trial verdict in history in a campaign to clean up oil contamination in the rain forest in northeastern Ecuador. He and his clients, a group of poor farmers and indigenous villagers, blame the activities of Texaco in the 1970s and 1980s. Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, counters that whatever oil-related pollution affected residents could be traced, not to Texaco, but to the Ecuadorian national oil company, Petroecuador, which has overseen oil operations in the region since the early 1990s.

In its counterattack, a civil racketeering suit filed against Donziger in 2011 in federal court in Manhattan, Chevron alleged that Donziger used bribes, false evidence, and even ghostwritten court documents to secure his victory. He denies the accusations, which he says the oil company is using as a pretext to avoid paying what it owes in Ecuador. Lewis Kaplan, a federal judge in New York, has set an Oct. 15 trial date for the racketeering suit. In a series of preliminary rulings, Kaplan has said he finds Chevron’s allegations plausible and that he suspects Donziger of masterminding an enormous fraud against the oil producer.

Lending Donziger some hope of withstanding Chevron’s barrage was his ability to hire one of the best known white-collar defense lawyers in the U.S., Keker of San Francisco, to represent him. In an emotionally worded filing on May 2, though, Keker said he wanted out. He asked Judge Kaplan for permission to withdraw from a case that Keker said “has degenerated into a Dickensian farce.”

Keker lashed out at Chevron and its law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP: “Through scorched-earth litigation, executed by its army of hundreds of lawyers, Chevron is using its limitless resources to crush” Donziger “and win this case through might rather than merit.” Keker also condemned Kaplan. “Encouraged by this court’s implacable hostility to Donziger, Chevron will file any motion, however meritless, in the hope that this court will use it to hurt Donziger.”

In a statement Friday evening, Donziger praised Keker for fighting “valiantly” against Chevron, but said: “Judge Kaplan has made it abundantly clear he will not allow me or my Ecuadorian colleagues a fair trial in his courtroom. It makes no sense to expend further resources that we don’t have for lawyers in a proceeding where the outcome is so clearly preordained by the judge.”

Beneath the outrage, matters of compensation also played into Keker’s withdrawal. He noted that Donziger owes his firm more than $1.4 million and has no ability to pay in the future. For the moment, Donziger will represent himself, Keker said in his filing. Craig Smyser, a well known Houston-based trial attorney representing the Ecuadorian farmers and Indians in the racketeering case, made a similar filing seeking to withdraw, saying that his firm is owed almost $1.8 million for its labors.

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Deng Xiaoping’s Duke Law Alumnus Grandson Named County Official

The grandson of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, a Duke University law school graduate who later worked for U.S. law firm White & Case LLP, was named deputy head of a county in southern China, the People’s Daily website said.

Deng Zhuodi, in his late 20s, will oversee economic development, law, agriculture, poverty alleviation and major projects in Guangxi province’s Pingguo county, the May 3 report said, citing local media. Pingguo is part of the city of Baise, where Deng Xiaoping helped lead a Communist uprising in 1929 against the Nationalist government.

Deng Zhuodi’s appointment illustrates the influence of China’s so-called princelings, the descendants of the founding fathers of Communist China. Chinese President Xi Jinping, the son of a top party official, held a party post at the county level in northern China’s Hebei province early in his career.

The younger Deng was born in 1985 while his grandfather oversaw the country’s economic opening that lifted China out of poverty and created opportunities for princelings to get rich. Deng Xiaoping died in 1997.

Deng Zhuodi is the son of Deng Xiaoping’s younger son Deng Zhifang, who earned a physics Ph.D. at the University of Rochester in the 1980s before returning to China to work in property.


Venable Hires CFPB Lawyer Baker as Partner in Washington

Allyson Baker, who helped start the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Enforcement and was lead counsel on one of the agency’s first enforcement actions, “In the Matter of Discover Bank,” joined Venable LLP as a partner in its Washington office, the firm said.

Prior to joining the CFPB in 2011, Baker was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s civil tax division.

“Being present at the creation of the CFPB and handling one of its biggest enforcement matters to date has given her a unique perspective,” Geoffrey Garinther, Venable litigation division chairman, said in a statement. “Allyson figures to be an invaluable addition to our litigation and enforcement groups, especially assisting financial services clients facing their most sensitive and complex matters.”

Venable’s CFPB Task Force is headed by Jonathan Pompan and Suzanne Garwood, who represent consumer financial institutions in matters before the CFPB.

Venable has more than 500 lawyers at eight U.S. offices.

Reed Smith Hires Labor and Litigation Partners in Houston

Reed Smith LLP added two partners to its Houston office. Mark D. Temple, formerly of Jones Day, and Leah T. Rudnicki, formerly of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP bring the total number of partners in the firm’s new Houston office to 16 and the number of lawyers to 22. Temple is a member of the firm’s labor and employment practice. Rudnicki is a member of its commercial litigation practice.

Temple provides general employment litigation and counsel to employers with an emphasis on non-compete litigation, protection of trade secrets, and wage and hour counseling, and handles broad-based discrimination claims, the firm said.  He also litigates cases before regulatory agencies and courts on workplace-related matters.

Rudnicki has experience providing strategic business counsel on energy operations, including representing, counseling and advising clients, the firm said. Her practice includes energy litigation, complex business and commercial litigation, toxic tort, and product liability defense.

Reed Smith has more than 1,800 lawyers in 25 offices throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Jones Day Adds Tax Partner Berger in Amsterdam

Jones Day said Lodewijk Berger will join the Amsterdam office as a partner in the tax practice. He was previously at Loyens & Loeff.

Berger focuses on international taxation, particularly for multinational corporations, banks, and private equity funds.

“Lodewijk’s arrival marks another important step forward in our growth in Amsterdam since officially opening our doors in February of this year,” Luc Houben, partner-in-charge of Jones Day’s Amsterdam office, said in a statement. “The Netherlands’ modern and competitive tax system is attractive to foreign investors, and therefore high quality tax advisers are important to providing our clients with full service capabilities. Lodewijk’s international tax experience is precisely what we need.”

Jones Day has more than 2,400 lawyers in 36 offices worldwide.

Nena Bains Joins Kilpatrick Townsend in Silicon Valley

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP said Nena Bains joined the firm’s Silicon Valley office as a partner on the medical and mechanical devices team.

Bains, who worked at Kilpatrick Townsend’s West Coast predecessor Townsend and Townsend and Crew from 1999 to 2006 as an associate, has spent the past seven years as in-house counsel with Boston Scientific Corp. and Asthmatx Inc. in Sunnyvale, California, the firm said.

Kilpatrick Townsend has 620 lawyers at 17 offices in the U.S. and internationally.

Mintz Levin Adds IP Attorney in San Francisco

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC added Paul Davis, formerly of Goodwin Procter LLP, as a member in the firm’s intellectual property practice in San Francisco.

Davis has more than 25 years of experience working with Silicon Valley area technology companies, the firm said.

Mintz Levin has 500 lawyers in eight offices in the U.S. and London.

Communications Industry GC Joins Akin Gump in Washington

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP said Douglas I. Brandon joined the firm in Washington as a partner in the communications and information technology practice. Brandon was previously general counsel at TerreStar Networks.

He has almost 25 years of experience in the wireless telecommunications industry, working with terrestrial providers and satellite carriers on regulatory and policy matters, the firm said.

Brandon joined TerreStar Networks in 2007. While there, he oversaw all of the company’s legal matters, including collaboration with a team from Akin Gump that navigated the company through the bankruptcy process, culminating in the sale of most of TerreStar’s assets to DISH Network, the firm said.

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

Real Estate Partner David B. Currie Rejoins Choate Hall

David B. Currie has rejoined Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP as a partner in its real estate group. Most recently Currie was general counsel at the real estate company The Davis Companies.

Currie will represent real estate developers and real estate private equity funds in all aspects of acquisition, disposition, financing, leasing, and development of real property. He also has experience counseling real estate private equity funds in the acquisition of office, retail, industrial and multi-family properties, the firm said.

Choate has 175 attorneys in its Boston office.


Sullivan & Cromwell’s Cohen: Cyprus Is Not A Template

H. Rodgin Cohen, partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, tells Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia why the recent bailout of Cyprus’s banking sector was a unique situation and not necessarily a template for dealing with future sovereign debt crises in the Eurozone.

This is a Bloomberg podcast. To download, watch or listen to this report now, click here.

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