Duane Morris, Troutman Sanders, Munger: Business of Law

Duane Morris LLP hired former K&L Gates LLP intellectual-property litigator Karineh Khachatourian to head its new office in Palo Alto, California.

The office, the firm’s 24th and fifth in California, will handle patent portfolio management, technology licensing, life sciences and immigration matters.

“Our new office in Silicon Valley represents a key strategic growth initiative for us, and is a direct response to feedback from our clients,” L. Norwood “Woody” Jameson, chairman of the Duane Morris intellectual property practice, said in a statement.

The firm’s Silicon Valley clients include Cisco Systems Inc., which awarded Duane Morris the litigation counsel of the year award for its 2011 patent litigation work.

The new managing partner, Khachatourian, focuses her practice on intellectual property litigation, including patent, trade secret and trademark. She also counsels clients on IP enforcement matters. She will be joined in the Palo Alto office by an associate from K&L Gates. More than 10 Duane Morris lawyers will have dual residency at the office.

“The leadership group of our IP practice is making a substantial commitment to the West Coast, with a priority on strategic hiring for Silicon Valley, as well as our other California offices,” Jameson said.

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

Troutman Sanders Names Dantzler New York Managing Partner

Commercial litigation partner J. David Dantzler Jr. was named managing partner of the New York office of Troutman Sanders LLP.

Dantzler, who previously led the law firm’s securities litigation and critical matters practices, succeeds Aurora Cassirer, who will continue to serve on the firm’s executive committee, the firm said.

Dantzler, who joined the firm in 2005 from McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, where he was a partner, has experience in corporate and securities litigation, including cases involving allegations of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and other business torts. His work has included the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of Florida-based mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Commission receivership of convicted Ponzi schemer Albert E. Parish in Charleston, South Carolina.

Cassirer has led the New York office since 2005, when 89 attorneys from the former Jenkins & Gilchrist law firm joined Troutman Sanders. A trial attorney and partner in the firm’s business litigation practice, Cassirer has experience in securities fraud class actions, breach of contract and valuation actions.

She served in 2010 as receiver in the case of convicted Ponzi scheme operator Kenneth Starr and served as Chapter 11 trustee in the bankruptcy case of attorney David Schick, who also ran a Ponzi scheme, the firm said.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue building on the strong foundation in our New York office,” Dantzler, who has relocated to New York from the firm’s Atlanta office, said in a statement.

Troutman Sanders has more than 600 lawyers at 15 offices in the U.S. and China.


Nassau County Supervising Judge Kase Re-Joins Kase & Druker

Kase & Druker said John L. Kase, supervising judge of the criminal courts in Nassau County, rejoined the firm as partner as of Jan. 2.

Kase co-founded the firm in 1978 with partner James O. Druker. The two men were colleagues at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, where they served as chiefs of the narcotics, district court, rackets and frauds bureaus, the firm said.

Kase was senior partner at Kase & Druker for 26 years before sitting on the Nassau County Criminal Court beginning in January 2005. He was appointed supervising judge in January 2012 by Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti. He stepped down from the bench at the end of last year at age 70 after reaching the state’s mandatory retirement law.

At Kase & Druker, he intends to resume representing clients in criminal and other matters and to further expand the firm’s federal practice.

“I’ve had the unique opportunity in my career to see the practice of criminal law from all three sides -- prosecution, defense and now the bench -- and I am thrilled to be returning to criminal defense, the work I find the most rewarding,” Kase said in a statement.

Kase & Druker has offices in Garden City and Mamaroneck, New York, and Longboat Key, Florida. The firm specializes in criminal and civil litigation, tax matters, commercial litigation, wills, trusts and estates, and appeals.

Mayer Brown Hires Banking & Finance Partner in Houston

Mayer Brown LLP said Bill Hart Jr., formerly of Baker Botts LLP, joined the firm in Houston as a partner in the banking and finance practice.

Hart concentrates his practice on advising clients on financial transactions, including the placement of high-yield debt securities, large syndicated bank transactions, project finance and oil and gas financings.

Mayer Brown has about 1,500 lawyers at 20 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.


Munger Tolles Advises Transocean on $1.4 Billion Spill Deal

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP partner Brad D. Brian led the representation of Transocean Ltd. in negotiating its settlement with the Justice Department of more than $1.4 billion, including a $400 million criminal penalty. The agreement settles federal claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a court filing.

Transocean will plead guilty to one count of violating the Clean Water Act, according to a consent decree between the company and the U.S. filed yesterday in federal court in New Orleans. Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean will pay $1 billion plus interest in civil penalties, according to the filing.

The U.S. sued Transocean in 2010, alleging violations of federal pollution law. Transocean was the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which burned and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 after BP Plc’s Macondo well exploded, setting off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Under the agreement, Transocean must establish a technology innovation group to focus on drilling safety, devoting a minimum of $10 million to this effort.

“This agreement holds Transocean criminally responsible for its conduct,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

The settlement will end the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Transocean, the company said in a statement. Transocean said it had accrued an estimated loss contingency of $1.5 billion for Justice Department claims as of Sept. 30. The settlement payments and interest aren’t deductible for tax purposes, the company said.

Allen Katz, formerly of counsel with Munger Tolles, joined Transocean in November as its interim general counsel.

The civil and criminal agreements, “which the company believes to be in the best interest of its shareholders and employees, remove much of the uncertainty associated with the accident,” Transocean said in the statement.

The agreement doesn’t cover costs to Transocean for natural resources damage under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the company said. That requires responsible parties to reimburse governments for the cost of restoring natural resources to pre-incident conditions.

The blowout and explosion aboard Transocean’s drilling rig killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of crude leaking into the gulf. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against Transocean, London-based BP, the well’s owner, and Houston-based Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services.

BP previously agreed to pay $4 billion to the Justice Department to resolve charges connected to the spill and $525 million to settle the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s claim that the company misled investors about the rate of oil flowing into the gulf.

The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

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Ex-Satyam Directors Get Accounting Fraud Claims Thrown Out

Former Satyam Computer Services Ltd. directors persuaded a judge to dismiss claims in a U.S. lawsuit over a $1 billion accounting fraud.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones in New York dismissed claims against former members of Satyam’s audit committee and other directors, citing insufficient allegations in the complaint. The Jan. 2 ruling in the class action, or group lawsuit, involved only the former board members, not other defendants in the case.

“We are gratified by Judge Jones’s decision,” said Irwin Warren, a partner with the New York firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP who represented five of the seven directors in the case and was lead counsel on the motions. “It was truly unfortunate that these directors -- diligent individuals of the highest integrity and reputation -- were ever named defendants.”

Satyam, based in Hyderabad, has been embroiled in India’s biggest corporate fraud probe. Former Chairman Ramalinga Raju disclosed in January 2009 that he overstated assets by more than $1 billion. In 2011, the company agreed to pay $125 million to settle a U.S. shareholder lawsuit alleging securities violations. Other defendants in the lawsuit have also reached settlements.

Most allegations in the complaint “concern an intricate and well concealed fraud perpetrated by a very small group of insiders and only reinforce the inference” that some former board members “were themselves victims of the fraud,” Jones said in a 71-page ruling.

Steven Singer, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, didn’t return a call after regular business hours seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is In re Satyam Computer Services Securities Litigation, 09-md-2027, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


Objection to Lawyers’ Fees Filed in Citigroup Settlement

Plaintiffs lawyers led by Kirby McInerney LLP are seeking almost $100 million in fees in their $590 million class-action settlement with Citigroup Inc., partly by applying substantial mark-ups for contract attorneys, according to a Dec. 21 filing in the case reported by Forbes.

Ted Frank, a class member and a founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness, objected to the plaintiff lawyers’ fee petition, saying the firms “wildly exaggerated hourly rates.” Contract lawyers who normally might earn about $45 an hour as subcontractors are being listed as lead lawyers with a billing rate of more than $1,000 an hour, Frank said.

One of those lawyers, according to her LinkedIn account, is a 2010 New York University graduate who moonlights as a fashion adviser, Forbes said.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan, who is presiding over the suit, granted preliminary approval to the unopposed accord Aug 29. Company shareholders alleged that the third-biggest U.S. bank hid risks tied to toxic assets.

A lawyer with Kirby McInerney said the firm’s use of the contract attorneys was endorsed by courts, according to Forbes.

The case is In re Citigroup Inc. Securities Litigation, 07-cv-9901, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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