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Jones Walker, White, Latham, Willkie: Business of Law

Jones Walker opened a Cincinnati office with a team of four lawyers from Peck Shaffer & Williams LLP.

John Weld Peck is leading the team, which also includes partners Alysse Hollis and Ronald Bell, and special counsel Robert Bruns.

Peck has been handling affordable housing finance matters in the U.S. for the past 40 years, the firm said in a statement. He was involved in the legislative hearings that resulted in the Section 8 program in the 1970s and helped write the Section 8 financing regulations, the firm said. He has also worked on tax-exempt multifamily housing finance vehicles since that time.

“Expanding our public finance and housing practice is part of our dynamic growth strategy,” Jones Walker managing partner William H. Hines said in a statement. “This combination is really where the equation is two plus two equals eight, or even ten. We already have a great relationship with John and his team. Our lawyers have worked on a number of deals together in the past and share some significant clients.”

Hollis serves as bond and underwriter’s counsel in conduit bond financings in multifamily housing, with a practice that focuses on the structuring and documentation of complex public and private housing finance transactions involving tax-exempt obligations. She has advised on the $15.5 million Ohio Housing Finance Agency Seton Portfolio project and the $57.5 million Louisiana Housing Finance Agency GMF-Louisiana Chateau projects among other matters, the firm said.

Bell has structured and advised on municipal finance transactions and tax credit matters and is involved in tax credit transactions. He has worked as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel and disclosure counsel on multifamily housing bond financings. His practice focuses on the structuring and documentation of public and private housing finance transactions, usually involving tax-exempt obligations, the firm said.

“This team has an impressive track record in financing and tax issues of affordable/multifamily housing and John Peck is one of the most well-respected practitioners in affordable housing finance in America,” Jones Walker’s New York office head and housing industry team chairman, Rick Lazio, former U.S. Representative from New York, said in a statement. “Their efforts will immediately add tremendous value to the firm’s strong presence and reputation in housing development and finance.”

Jones Walker has more than 375 attorneys at offices in Alabama, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and Texas.


Allen & Overy Milan Capital Markets Lawyer Jumps to White & Case

White & Case LLP strengthened its debt capital markets practice in Italy with the addition of Paola Leocani, formerly of Allen & Overy LLP, as a partner in the Milan office.

Leocani’s practice has a focus on international and retail debt and derivatives securities, liability management transactions and regulatory matters. Her experience covers bank funding expertise, the firm said.

“At a time when companies are resorting more to the capital markets instead of the traditional bank credit market, Paola’s excellent reputation and legal skills will be particularly beneficial to White & Case clients,” Michael Immordino, executive partner of the White & Case Milan Office said in a statement.

White & Case has lawyers in 39 offices across 27 countries.

Massachusetts State Representative Rejoins Duane Morris

Daniel B. Winslow, a Massachusetts state representative and former Chief Legal Counsel to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has rejoined the Boston office of Duane Morris LLP in the trial practice group.

His practice will resume its focus on business litigation and corporate strategy, the firm said.

Winslow was a trial court judge for seven years in Massachusetts, and recently ran an unsuccessful race in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Winslow also was chief legal counsel for Scott Brown’s 2010 special election campaign for U.S. Senate. In the Romney Administration he oversaw policy and was involved in the Massachusetts budget decisions.

He will continue to serve as a state legislator as he assumes an of counsel role at Duane Morris. He represents Norfolk County’s Ninth District and is on the House of Representatives’ Rules committee, as well as on the Judiciary, Rules, and State Administration and Regulatory Oversight joint committees.

Duane Morris has more than 700 attorneys in 24 offices in the U.S., London and Asia.


DLA Piper Top Firm by Lawyer Count, NLJ Survey Says

DLA Piper LLP, which captured the top spot for highest grossing law firm of the year in a survey earlier this year, again beat out its rival Baker Botts LLP in the National Law Journal’s annual survey of the biggest U.S. law firms. DLA Piper had 4,036 lawyers to Baker & McKenzie’s 4,004 lawyers, the survey reported.

The number of lawyers overall at the 350 biggest law firms increased last year by 1.1 percent to 141,056 lawyers at 3,500 offices, according to the newspaper. Forty percent of the firms surveyed, or 140 firms, lost lawyers.

The gains were largely due to increased partner numbers, which grew by 1.5 percent, mainly as a result of mergers, the newspaper said.

DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie had the greatest increases by number of lawyers while Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP saw the greatest decline in the numbers of lawyers, 97 and 86 fewer at each firm respectively.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP had the greatest increase in associate growth, both by percentage and by number of lawyers, with 81 new associates.

Additional firms at the top of the list by number of lawyers included Jones Day in third with 2,363 lawyers, followed by Hogan Lovells LLP with 2,280 and Latham & Watkins LLP at 2,033, according to the NLJ.


Latham & Willkie Advise Pearl on Purchase by AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca Plc agreed to buy Pearl Therapeutics Inc., a closely held U.S. drug maker, for as much as $1.15 billion to expand its portfolio of respiratory-disease treatments as competition for lung medicines increases. Latham & Watkins LLP and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP advised Pearl. Greenberg Traurig LLP advised AstraZeneca.

Latham advised Pearl with a Silicon Valley-based team led by partner Mark Roeder. Advice was provided on employee benefits and compensation matters by partner James Metz and on intellectual property matters by partner Judith Hasko.

Willkie partners Gordon Caplan and Rosalind Fahey Kruse advised Pearl on the deal.

Greenberg’s deal team for AstraZeneca included shareholder Paul Maher with support in London from shareholder Gary Cooper, corporate and securities. The U.S.-based team was led by shareholder Michael Helsel, corporate and securities.

The U.K. company will pay $560 million initially for Redwood City, California-based Pearl Therapeutics, AstraZeneca said yesterday in a statement. Payments related to development of Pearl Therapeutics’ products could add as much as $450 million to the price, and sales-related payments could add as much as $140 million, according to the statement.

It’s the second acquisition in two weeks by London-based AstraZeneca, which is looking to replenish the pipeline as its best-selling drugs face generic competition over the next three years. Pearl Therapeutics has a drug called PT003 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder in late-stage clinical trials, which would fit with AstraZeneca’s Symbicort portfolio, AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.

For more, click here.

Skadden Advises Travelers on E-L’s Dominion of Canada Purchase

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP is representing Travelers Cos., the lone property insurer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which agreed to buy Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co. from E-L Financial Corp. for $1.1 billion in cash to expand commercial coverage. McCarthy Tetrault LLP advised E-L Financial.

The Skadden team is led by partners Todd Freed and Christopher Ulery, mergers and acquisitions.

The McCarthy team is led by Andrew Parker and included partners David Randell, Alfred Macchione, Gabrielle Richards, Barry Ryan, Gary Girvan, Lorraine Allard, Jonathan See, Bram Costin, Don Houston, Sunil Kapur and Erica Baron.

Dominion will be combined with Travelers’s operations in Canada and have headquarters in Toronto, the New York-based buyer said in a statement. The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, according to the statement.

Travelers, led by Chief Executive Officer Jay Fishman, 60, has been seeking growth outside the U.S. The insurer in 2010 struck a deal to take a stake in Brazil’s J. Malucelli Participacoes em Seguros e Resseguros SA.

“This transaction is consistent with our strategy to make thoughtful investments in attractive markets outside the United States,” Fishman said in the statement.

The deal will help E-L narrow its focus to life and health coverage and savings products such as mutual funds and annuities through Empire Life Insurance Co. E-L said it hasn’t determined a plan for the sale proceeds.

Brigid Murphy, CEO and president of Dominion, will hold both roles at the combined Canadian operation. George Petropoulos, who leads Travelers Canada, will become vice chairman of the new organization.

For more, click here.


Missouri Lawyer Brings Nuisance Suit Strategy to Fracking Case

Six Pennsylvania families who sued Chevron Corp. and units of the Williams Cos. Inc. and WPX Energy Inc. over hydraulic fracturing-related claims have turned to a Missouri lawyer who has used nuisance allegations to win cases against commercial animal feed operations.

The Fayette County residents last week alleged in a state court lawsuit that the energy companies’ fracking efforts leaked methane and polluted water, while their employees intimidated them and even ruined a breeding stock of Black Angus cows. The focus of their lawsuit, however, isn’t the property damage so much as the offensive byproducts of the operations, a legal tactic that has begun to gain traction as courts consider the application of nuisance law to the natural gas boom.

“You avoid some of the really difficult causation issues,” Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview, referring to the difficulty in proving specific damages in fracking cases. “You could show an interference with use of and enjoyment of one’s property without conclusively demonstrating that a gas company for example had contaminated a particular water well.”

Nuisance suits are based in part on the loss of such use and enjoyment of property, often through noise, odors or vibration, as opposed to physical damage like poisoned water. The attorney for the families, Charlie Speer, of Speer Law Firm P.A. in Kansas City, claims such litigation in the fracking context may face an easier path through courts because it doesn’t rely on scientific evidence.

In fracking, millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to free trapped gas and oil. The technology has boosted energy production and positioned the U.S. to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by the end of the decade, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Nuisance claims like those filed by the Fayette County residents are growing in popularity, lawyers said, as more plaintiffs include them in complaints containing a spectrum of environmental allegations against drillers and distributors.

“I call them quality-of-life lawsuits,” Speer said in an interview. “I consider these to be private property rights cases and everybody in this country understands private property rights and values them.”

Nuisance complaints tied to fracking have been filed in at least 10 different states, including several in Pennsylvania, said Josh Galperin, associate director at Yale Law School’s Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

The case is Headley v. Chevron Appalachia LLC, Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County (Pittsburgh).

For more, click here.

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