WilmerHale, Bracewell & Giuliani, Bird: Business of Law

Meredith B. Cross, former director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will be rejoining Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.

Cross, who was director of the division from June 2009 through the end of last year, led the division’s efforts to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, the firm said.

During her time, the division recommended close to 60 rulemaking releases to the commission, including concerning say-on-pay, conflict minerals, proxy access, compensation committees and other matters.

Cross, a partner at WilmerHale from 1998 to 2009, was co-head of the firm’s corporate practice. She focused on advising clients on corporate and securities matters, and working on issues faced by public and private companies in capital raising and public reporting.

“She was a thought leader at the commission during a crucial time and WilmerHale’s clients will benefit from her direct experience and deep understanding of the regulatory and legal intricacies that public companies face today,” Susan Murley, co-managing partner of WilmerHale, said in a statement.

WilmerHale has 1,000 lawyers with offices in 12 cities in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Energy Duo Added to Bracewell & Giuliani’s London Office

Bracewell & Giuliani LLP hired two energy partners including Julian Nichol, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, who will be the office’s managing partner. Alastair Young, formerly of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, is also joining the firm in London.

“It is important for us to be able to serve our clients in all areas of the globe in which they do business,” Bracewell Managing Partner Mark C. Evans said in a statement. “London is a key jumping off point. I foresee significantly more attorney growth for us in London over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Nichol, who will join the firm in March, has experience advising on project development and financings as well as mergers and acquisitions work in the power, oil and gas and mining sectors with a particular focus on transactions in Africa and the Middle East, the firm said. Among his recent client representations is advising AES Corp on the successful financing of the Dibamba and Kribi power projects in Cameroon.

Young, who will join in April, is an energy corporate lawyer focusing on cross-border oil and gas M&A, joint ventures, project development and regulatory matters.

The firm currently has one partner, Adam Motzel, previously at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, in London. Motzel is a corporate finance lawyer, who heads the office. The Houston-based firm has 470 lawyers in 10 offices in the U.S., London and Dubai.

Dickstein Shapiro Partner Joins Herrick as Tax Co-Chairman

Herrick, Feinstein LLP announced that Gary L. Schoenbrun, formerly of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, has joined the New York office as a partner and will co-head the firm’s tax and personal planning group.

Schoenbrun concentrates his practice on taxation and executive compensation, advising clients as tax counsel in connection with both taxable and tax-free mergers and acquisitions involving both private and public companies. Schoenbrun has particular experience in structuring partnership and limited liability company tax allocation provisions.

Herrick, Feinstein, based in New York, has 170 lawyers in three U.S. offices.

Aviation Lawyer Brett Hailey Joins Bird & Bird in London

Bird & Bird LLP hired Brett Hailey in its London office, where he joins the international aviation sector group. Hailey, who joins from SNR Denton LLP, is an aircraft financing and leasing lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in the aviation sector.

Hailey has represented airlines on major fleet renewal programs and on finance, and has also advised airlines and lessors on leasing and financing transactions, the firm said. Hailey was assigned to JPMorgan in 2012 as senior consultant advising on export-credit financings.

“Although we currently do a lot of aircraft leasing, financing and commercial transactions, Brett’s joining completes our team capability to handle more complex financings and to act for lenders and lessors in aircraft finance transactions,” Paul Briggs, co-head of the aviation group, said in a statement.

Bird & Bird has more than 900 lawyers in 23 offices across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Ashurst Hires Competition Partner in Brussels and Rome

Ashurst LLP hired Denis Fosselard as partner on its European competition team. He will be splitting his time between Brussels and Rome. He joins from Legance Studio Legale Associato where he was head of the antitrust practice, the firm said.

Fosselard advises on all aspects on EU and Italian antitrust law and has 20 years of experience in advising European corporate clients in relation to behavioral and merger control cases, as well as state aid investigations.

Ashurst has more than 400 partners and 1,700 lawyers at 24 offices in 14 countries in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.


Citgo to Settle With New Hampshire in Gas Additive Lawsuit

Citgo Petroleum Corp. and New Hampshire agreed to sever the company from an $816 million trial over groundwater contamination while a settlement is completed, as a witness testified that 2 percent of the state’s wells are polluted with hazardous levels of the chemical.

“The parties stipulate that Citgo Petroleum shall be severed from the above captioned case until such time as a consent agreement between Citgo and the state is filed with the court,” the parties said in a court filing dated yesterday and signed by New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Mary E. Maloney and Nate Eimer, a Chicago lawyer who represents Citgo.

Under the agreement, the parties have until Feb. 15 to complete an accord before Citgo is reinstated to the case, unless they agree to an extension. Citgo’s lawyers didn’t appear in court yesterday as the trial resumed.

A settlement would leave ExxonMobil Corp. as the last defendant in the state’s lawsuit alleging oil companies knew the chemical would contaminate groundwater. New Hampshire’s suit is one of scores of cases involving the additive methyl tertiary butyl ether filed since 2000 against refiners, fuel distributors and chemical makers. A trial of the case began Jan. 14.

The state is seeking damages from the companies based on their market share of gasoline sales in New Hampshire during the period covered by the lawsuit.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office declined to comment on specific terms of any proposed settlement. Fernando Garay, a spokesman for Citgo, declined to immediately comment on the matter.

The case is State of New Hampshire v. Hess Corp., 03-C-0550, New Hampshire Superior Court, Merrimack County (Concord).

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RG Steel Liquidation Shows Filing Preferences Lucrative

Filing preference claims against creditors can be lucrative for bankrupt companies and the lawyers who bring the lawsuits, as the liquidation of steel producer RG Steel LLC shows, Bill Rochelle writes for Bloomberg News.

RG Steel has begun filing 600 to 800 lawsuits seeking to recover about $100 million from creditors who received preferences before the Chapter 11 case began in May, according to Joe Steinfeld, whose firm ASK LLP was hired to file the suits. A preference is a payment to a creditor on overdue debt received within 90 days of bankruptcy.

In the RG Steel case, Steinfeld said in an interview that his firm reviewed thousands of payments before bankruptcy and is filing suits to recover those where the preference claims may be valid. Steinfeld said he would aim for RG Steel to realize net recoveries amounting to about 20 percent of the sums being sought in the suits.

Expenses and legal fees to recover preferences amount to about 25 percent of recoveries, Steinfeld said.

The expense of filing preferences suits isn’t inconsiderable. The filing fee alone is almost $300 per suit, meaning that ASK will put up more than $230,000 just to initiate the process. ASK has recovered more than $260 million for bankrupt companies, according to a court filing.

The court-approved fee arrangement calls for ASK to be paid 15 percent of recoveries before suit is filed or 22.5 percent afterward, plus expenses.

The case is In re WP Steel Venture LLC, 12-11661, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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Lance Armstrong’s Lawyer Tim Herman Talks About Legal Fallout

Tim Herman, Lance Armstrong’s long-time attorney and a senior partner at Austin, Texas’ Howry, Breen & Herman LLP, talks about the legal ramifications of an Armstrong confession to using performance enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career.

Herman, speaking with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck, also discusses how he began representing Armstrong.

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

Firm News

SNR Denton Enters Into New Association in Kuwait

SNR Denton LLP is ending its association with Kuwaiti local firm International Legal Group and has entered into an association in Kuwait with Jamal Ahmed Al-Shehab. Al-Shehab is returning to private practice after retiring from the government, where he was the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. The new firm will be known as the Law Office of Al-Shehab & Partners in association with SNR Denton.

“The Middle East is a very important market for the firm, given its strategic location and resilient economies. Together with Jamal Al-Shehab & Partners, we will continue to provide a strong, multipractice offering and top quality legal advice to businesses investing into the region and to locally-based corporates and investors looking off-shore Kuwait,” Matthew Jones, EMEA CEO at SNR Denton, said in a statement.

Al-Shehab also served as the Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs in the government. He will continue to be an adviser in the Kuwait government’s partnership with the United Nations Development Program, the firm said.

SNR Denton opened its office in Kuwait City in 2008. The firm serves clients on energy, infrastructure and project finance, corporate and commercial matters in Kuwait. The firm has 10 offices in nine countries in the Middle East, with more than 110 lawyers and legal staff. Last year, the firm agreed to merge with two others to create Dentons, a firm with 79 locations in 52 countries. The new firm will start this quarter.