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Eversheds Expands With African Firms: Business of Law

Eversheds LLP is expanding in Africa by combining with law firms based in South Africa and Tunisia.

Mahons Attorneys in South Africa will rebrand with the Eversheds name in 2014, giving the firm offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Louis in Mauritius. Mahons has 10 partners who advise on business matters.

“We have extremely strong and long-standing relationships with many of the Mahons team, including senior partner Peter van Niekerk, who was deputy chairman of our previous business in South Africa,” Bryan Hughes, Eversheds chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Having a strong platform in South Africa is vital to our growth plans in the region.”

El Heni, a Tunis-based firm founded 30 years ago, joined Eversheds and will become the firm’s Tunisian office. El Heni has worked for two years under the name CWA Tunisia in cooperation with Eversheds and will now be known as Eversheds El Heni.

“This relationship will be of benefit to our diverse existing client base and will create further domestic and international opportunities in the future,” Mohamed Raouf El Heni, co-founder of El Heni, said in a statement.

Eversheds expects to establish additional offices in Morocco, Ghana and Kenya within months. The firm also started the African Law Institute, where member law firms in Africa can access training and develop commercial opportunities. Firms in 14 countries have signed up as members, Eversheds said.

Eversheds has lawyers at 50 offices in 29 countries worldwide.

Dewey Trustee Sues Nine Former Partners for $9.8 Million

Nine former equity partners at defunct law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP were sued by bankruptcy trustee Alan Jacobs, seeking $9.8 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The lawsuits, filed Dec. 2, seek hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes more than $1 million from partners for bonuses paid, partner capital or personal income tax payments that the firm made on the lawyers’ behalf, according to the newspaper.

According to the Journal, the former Dewey partners and the amount they were sued for are Eric W. Blanchard, $1.43 million; Geoffrey H. Coll, $1.48 million; Mark S. Radke, almost $855,000; L. Londell McMillan, $1.77 million; Glynna Christian, almost $395,000; John P. Keiserman, more than $595,000; Lawrence LaRose, $1.67 million; Fred W. Reinke, about $814,000; and Anthony W. Shaw, $788,000.

A week earlier, Jacobs filed a $21.8 million lawsuit against Stephen DiCarmine, the defunct law firm’s former executive director, and Joel Sanders, the chief financial officer. Compensation for the top managers was “far above the value of the services” they rendered and was “atypical” compared with salaries for “comparable law firm management administrators,” according to the complaint.

Dewey once had 1,300 lawyers. The liquidation began under Chapter 11 in May 2012. At the outset of bankruptcy, there was secured debt of about $225 million and accounts receivable of $217.4 million, the firm previously said.

The bankruptcy case is In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, 12-bk-12321, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


FTC Bureau of Competition Director Returns to Boies Schiller

Richard Feinstein, the Federal Trade Commission’s former director of the Bureau of Competition, is returning to Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP. He will work in the Washington office, where he was a partner from 2001 to 2009.

Feinstein was the commission’s Director of the Bureau of Competition from May 2009 until June 2013. At the FTC, he was responsible for all of the agency’s investigation and enforcement actions across industries. During his tenure, 80 cases culminated in either litigated injunctive relief or consent orders, the firm said.

“Rich Feinstein is one of the leading antitrust lawyers in the country,” firm Chairman David Boies said in a statement. “His breadth of experience and accomplishments in antitrust trials, counseling and enforcement policy is unsurpassed.”

He has also worked at the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and as assistant director in charge of the FTC’s enforcement program in the health-care and pharmaceutical sectors, the firm said.

Boies Schiller has more than 200 lawyers in 12 U.S. offices.

Reed Smith Hires Financial Industry Group Partner in Washington

Reed Smith LLP added Angela Angelovska-Wilson as a partner in the financial industry group in Washington. She was previously counsel at Latham & Watkins LLP.

Angelovska-Wilson’s practice focuses on regulatory counseling for companies on issues such as Dodd-Frank compliance; regulatory support in connection with mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, bank-owned life insurance, privacy and data security, corporate governance and internal controls, the firm said. In the payments area, she will advise clients on online and electronic payments systems.

“Angela is widely recognized as a leader in the area of virtual currencies, which is an emerging technology and a hot button issue for federal regulators,” Perry Napolitano, head of the firm’s financial industry group, said in a statement. “She is regularly called upon by global financial services institutions for advice on cutting-edge payment methods for merchants.”

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


Bar Groups Give Jobless Lawyers a Boost

“Ironic” could be the theme of the current market for legal services: thousands of unemployed new lawyers, but even more potential clients who can’t afford market-rate legal bills.

Now bar associations are playing matchmaker. The New York City Bar Association is starting a law firm and the Chicago Bar Foundation is creating an incubator. Both will link new lawyers with moderate-income clients, charging lower prices than typical firms.

With fewer associate jobs in big law, 44 percent of 2012’s law graduates who entered private practice wound up in firms with two to 10 lawyers. The bar initiatives will help transition new lawyers into small firms, and help them develop their own clientele. And there is no shortage of clients; one study found that about 60 percent of middle-class legal needs are handled without lawyers.

The matters that these lawyers will handle could include custody disputes, small-business issues and immigration cases.

To see the video, click here.


Getty Petroleum Sues Greenberg Traurig for $2.5 Million

Law firms that successfully push companies through Chapter 11 aren’t immune from lawsuits over pre-bankruptcy payments, as Greenberg Traurig LLP learned after serving as primary reorganization counsel for Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc.

Getty Petroleum, which supplied petroleum products and subleased gasoline stations to operators, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2011 after Getty Properties Corp. terminated the leases on about 800 locations.

The company won court approval of a liquidating Chapter 11 plan in August 2012 using the cramdown process because unsecured creditors with $240 million in claims voted against the proposal.

The plan created a trust to sue on behalf of creditors. With the two-year limitation for filing suits about to expire, the trust brought about 75 cases to recover preferences, payments on overdue debt made within three months of bankruptcy.

Among the targets is New York-based Greenberg Traurig. The trustee said the law firm should pay back about $2.5 million in fees received within three months before bankruptcy. The amount the trust is seeking would represent 80 percent of the fees the firm got for its work during the Chapter 11 case.

“We were not contacted about this complaint before it was filed and are not aware of any basis for it,” Jill Perry, a spokeswoman for the firm, said in an interview.

Earlier this year, the trust brought in $93 million through the settlement of a suit against Lukoil Americas Corp.

Getty Petroleum, based in East Meadow, New York, listed assets of $82.2 million and debt totaling $133.5 million.

The Chapter 11 case is In re Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc., 11-bk-15606, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Fifth Circuit Delivers Mixed Ruling on Fee Enhancements

A law firm ended up with a diminished victory even though the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld an enhanced fee award for “exceptional results” representing asbestos claimants in the reorganization of Asarco LLC.

For “extraordinary results,” the bankruptcy judge awarded Stutzman Bromberg Esserman & Plifka PC a 10 percent enhancement on part of its fee. The enhancement worked out to about $450,000.

What the New Orleans-based appeals court gave with one hand, it took way with the other by disallowing some $525,000 in fees the Dallas-based firm expended in defending the enhancement.

In several respects, U.S. Circuit Judge Andrew S. Hanen made important law about fees in his Nov. 26 opinion for the three-judge panel.

He reiterated prior rulings by saying that fee enhancements are awarded only in “rare and exceptional circumstances.” The firm’s extraordinary work “directly caused” the outstanding outcome for clients and thus entitled the firm to an enhancement.

Hanen next ruled that a court isn’t required to “justify how they arrived at a particular enhancement.” He said that “fee calculation is not an exact science.”

The New Orleans court joined a majority of other appeals courts by allowing fees for preparation and defense of fee requests.

On the other hand, Hanen said, expenses in seeking and defending a fee enhancement aren’t compensable because they aren’t necessary or beneficial for the bankrupt estate.

The case is Asarco v. Stutzman Bromberg Esserman & Plifka PC, 11-00291, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).

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