Debevoise, Holland & Knight, Hunton: Business of Law

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP partner Mary Jo White, who gained prominence prosecuting terrorists as U.S. attorney for Manhattan, was named by President Barack Obama to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

White would succeed Elisse Walter, who took over as SEC chairman when Mary Schapiro stepped down last month. Obama also re-nominated Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Debevoise is very proud that our partner and colleague Mary Jo White has once again been called to return to public service in a vitally important role,” Debevoise presiding partner Michael W. Blair said in an e-mailed statement. “All of us who know and work with Mary Jo know that her extraordinary intellect, energy and experience, combined with her bedrock integrity, will serve our country exceptionally well as she takes on the important responsibility of chairing the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The appointment of White will be a departure for the SEC, which has typically been run by lawyers steeped in financial policy making and the securities industry. Her relative inexperience in those areas, along with her work defending corporate clients including Ken Lewis, the former chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp., could draw criticism from some lawmakers and advocates for investors.

White, 65, was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, and won the conviction of four followers of Osama bin Laden for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Under her direction, prosecutors won convictions for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a failed plot to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York landmarks. During that time, she supervised Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s outgoing enforcement director, and George Canellos, his deputy.

“The Obama administration would be sending a message that the SEC will continue to be a tough cop on Wall Street,” Rick Firestone, a former SEC attorney who is now a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery, said in an e-mail. “Her extensive experience in private practice gives her balance and a deep understanding of Wall Street and the issues in our capital markets.”

Her work as a defense attorney for some of Wall Street’s biggest names could raise concerns among lawmakers. She represented Lewis during an SEC probe of claims that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America didn’t disclose bonuses that Merrill Lynch & Co. paid to executives before buying the brokerage. The bank settled the claims for $150 million; Lewis wasn’t accused of wrongdoing.

In 2011, White was hired by News Corp. to defend its independent directors against claims related to the company’s role in phone hacking by News of the World, its former U.K.- based tabloid.

White also surfaced in an SEC controversy when she worked on behalf of Morgan Stanley to vet John Mack before he was named CEO of the investment bank. She sought information in 2005 from then-SEC enforcement director Linda Thomsen about what an insider-trading probe of hedge-fund manager Pequot Capital Management Inc. revealed about Mack’s involvement.

An SEC inspector general’s report issued in 2008 questioned whether Thomsen should have shared information about a potential target with White. The agency later informed Mack and Pequot that it had closed the investigation and wouldn’t pursue any action against them.

The re-nomination of Cordray to lead the consumer bureau will come a year after Obama placed him in the job with a recess appointment that bypassed Senate confirmation. The president took the step after Senate Republicans blocked the nomination while seeking changes to the agency’s funding and structure.

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AIG Hires Patton Boggs to Lobby on ILFC Deal With China Group

American International Group Inc., the insurer that repaid a U.S. bailout last year, hired Patton Boggs LLP to lobby lawmakers over a deal to sell its aircraft-leasing unit.

The firm registered to represent AIG effective Dec. 7, the day the insurer said it was in talks to sell International Lease Finance Corp. to a group of Chinese investors. The $4.2 billion deal requires approval from regulators in China and the U.S.

AIG suspended all lobbying in October 2008, a month after the U.S. provided the first part of a $182.3 billion rescue. The U.S. on Dec. 11 sold the last shares it had acquired in the bailout of the New York-based insurer.

Patton Boggs handles regulatory and legal matters related to international business deals, according to the Washington-based firm’s website.

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Deutsche Bank Names Roberto Head of Investment Bank in Brazil

Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s largest lender, named Joel Roberto, a former lawyer with Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, head of investment banking in Brazil, to replace Jaime Singer.

Singer is leaving “to pursue personal projects,” a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt-based company said, asking not to be identified in keeping with company policy. Roberto’s promotion will “keep strengthening the business in Brazil,” she said.

Roberto, 46, has worked for Deutsche Bank since 2010, and was a managing director responsible for client relationships in sectors including infrastructure, telecommunications, media, logistics, technology and conglomerates. He was previously a banker at Banco Santander Brasil SA and ABN Amro Bank NV and an attorney at Skadden.

Deutsche Bank cut employees in its Brazilian investment bank and research units last month as part of a global effort to save 4.5 billion euros ($6 billion) by 2015. The company, which has about 500 employees in Brazil including workers from outsourcing services, didn’t say how many jobs were eliminated.


Former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño Joins Steptoe

Steptoe & Johnson LLP announced that Luis G. Fortuño, the former governor of Puerto Rico, has joined the firm as a partner in Washington. Fortuño joins the corporate, securities, and finance group and the government affairs and public policy group, and will help with the expansion of Steptoe’s Latin American practice, the firm said.

Fortuño was elected governor in 2008. Under his leadership, Puerto Rico reduced the budget deficit by 90% and implemented the biggest tax cut in its history, the firm said. Fortuño’s public-private partnerships law allowed for infrastructure investment projects in Puerto Rico’s highway system and at its hub airport, the firm said.

Prior to his election as governor, Fortuño spent four years in Congress as the elected delegate from Puerto Rico. In private practice in Puerto Rico, Fortuño was a partner in the McConnell Valdés law firm, and later a founding partner of the boutique firm Correa, Collazo, Herrero, Jiménez & Fortuño.

“Luis brings a track record of success from every position he has held. As governor, right after the 2007 global economic crisis, he developed and successfully implemented fiscal reforms that included public-private partnerships, tax cuts, regulatory streamlining and new sources of government revenue,” Steptoe chairman Roger E. Warin said in a statement.

Steptoe & Johnson has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in nine offices.

Chadbourne Insurance Head Joins Holland & Knight in New York

Insurance lawyer John Sarchio has joined Holland & Knight LLP in New York as chairman of the firm’s insurance industry practice team. Sarchio, most recently co-founder and co-head of the insurance and reinsurance practice group at Chadbourne & Parke LLP, is joined by partner Richard G. Liskov. Sarchio also formerly led the insurance practice at White & Case LLP, the firm said.

“John is an outstanding lawyer recognized nationally and internationally for his deep knowledge of insurance regulatory, transactional and reinsurance-related issues. His reputation as a proven industry expert, as well as his considerable experience with commercial and government clients, will significantly enhance the firm’s capabilities and services,” said Steven Sonberg, managing partner of Holland & Knight.

Sarchio’s practice concentrates on insurance industry mergers, acquisitions and financings, reinsurance transactions, self-insurance and captives, and insurance regulatory matters. He provides guidance in connection with insurance company demutualizations, bank-insurer affiliations and mutual insurer mergers, the firm said. He has also advised several state and foreign governments on insurance issues and has drafted a number of laws and regulations governing various aspects of the insurance industry, including Vermont’s highly successful captive insurance law.

Liskov focuses his practice on insurance regulatory, transactional and litigation matters. Prior to joining Chadbourne, he was the deputy superintendent and general counsel of the New York State Insurance Department.

Holland & Knight has more than 1,000 lawyers and other professionals in 17 U.S. offices, as well as Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Bogotá and Mexico City.

Day Pitney Hires Intellectual Property Partner Andrew Riddles

Day Pitney LLP hired intellectual property lawyer Andrew Riddles as a partner. Riddles, formerly with Crowell Morning LLP, will divide his time between the firm’s Stamford, Connecticut, and New York offices.

Riddles has litigated patent infringement cases, for both plaintiff and defendant, involving technologies such as optics, computer hardware and software, telecommunications, e-commerce, semiconductor circuits and microwave transmission. In addition to his IP trial practice, Riddles represents parties in technology and multi-party matters like technology transfer agreements and the resolution of multiparty litigation claims.

Day Pitney has attorneys at 10 U.S. offices.

Environmental Lawyer Joins Hunton & Williams in Washington

Scott Stone joined Hunton & Williams LLP’s environmental law practice group as counsel in Washington. Stone comes from Sierra Nevada Corp., an electronics, avionics, communications and data-integration systems provider, where he served as director of global environmental initiatives.

Stone focuses his practice on administrative, environmental and international law, particularly Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other environmental regulatory issues. Before working at Sierra Nevada, he was an associate with Hunton & Williams.

Hunton & Williams has more than 800 lawyers in 19 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.


WilmerHale Counsel Sues Firm for Discrimination in Termination

A former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP lawyer filed a law suit claiming the firm fired her for taking leave after adopting a baby and denied her salary and bonus, the law firm Sanford Heisler LLP said in a statement. The suit alleges gender and age bias by WilmerHale.

Pamela Levinson, who was a member of the intellectual property litigation group, the business litigation group and the investigations and criminal litigation group, worked at WilmerHale for seven years before the firm fired her last February, Sanford Heisler said.

Levinson, who graduated first in her class at University of Miami Law School, joined WilmerHale in 2004 as a fourth-year associate, the firm said. She was promoted to counsel in 2008.

What followed her adoption, was “her first negative evaluation at the firm, substantial reduction in her annual bonus and ultimately her termination,” according to the statement.

Susan Murley, co-managing partner, WilmerHale, said in an e-mailed statement that “Ms. Levinson’s claims are completely without merit and we will vigorously defend the firm.”

Firm News

Edgcomb Law Group Opens Burbank Office with Bingham Partners

Boutique environmental firm Edgcomb Law Group LLP hired two new partners, Nancy Wilms and Tiffany Hedgpeth, to open the firm’s first Southern California office. Wilms and Hedgpeth, formerly partners at Bingham McCutchen LLP in Los Angeles, will join the firm as partners and open the a new office in Burbank, California, the firm said.

“Joining forces with Nancy and Tiffany and adding a Southern California office marks a major milestone for Edgcomb Law Group as a firm and for me personally,” John Edgcomb, who founded ELG in San Francisco in 1995, said in a statement. “Our diverse client-base is national in scope, and having a Los Angeles office and two more former big-law attorneys will help us serve our clients at a new level, but with the same emphasis on cost-effectiveness.”

Wilms and Hedgpeth have spent 16 and 15 years, respectively, in Bingham’s Los Angeles environmental group. Wilms’ practice focuses on managing large, complex environmental litigation matters and defending clients against citizen’s suits brought under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act, the firm said. Hedgpeth’s practice also focuses on environmental litigation.


Sternlicht’s Starwood Firms to Buy LNR in $1.05 Billion Deal

Sidley Austin LLP advised Starwood Property Trust Inc. and Starwood Capital Group LLC, which agreed to buy LNR Property LLC, the biggest manager of distressed U.S. commercial real estate loans, for $1.05 billion.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP advised the sellers.

Starwood Property, the largest commercial-mortgage real estate investment trust, will pay $856 million for most of LNR’s businesses, including its U.S. special servicing unit and 50 percent of LNR’s stake in, the companies said yesterday in a statement. Starwood Capital, Barry Sternlicht’s closely held investment firm, will buy LNR’s U.S. property-development unit and the other half of the interest for $197 million.

LNR’s co-CEOs, Tobin Cobb and Justin Kennedy, will remain in their jobs, managing LNR as a separate business under Starwood Property ownership. The Miami Beach, Florida-based company is currently owned by a group that includes funds managed by Cerberus Capital Management LP, Oaktree Capital Group LLC, iStar Financial Inc. and Vornado Realty Trust.

Sidley’s team was led by corporate partners Michael Gordon and Scott Freeman. The team also included partners Jonathan Babb, corporate; David Miller and Ivy Li Jones, tax; Edward Prokop and Aimee Contreras-Camua, real estate; Mark I. Greenberg, bank finance; Kevin Blaugh, Mark M. Rogers and Myles Pollin, securitization; Robert P. Hardy, benefits; Jerry Cummins and Robert Mandell, corporate finance; Mark Raven and David Went, competition. In London partners Partha S. Pal and Nicholas Turner also worked on the deal. In Frankfurt, litigation partner Isaac Greaney assisted.

S&C represented all of the sellers, the board and Vornado individually. The S&C New York-based team includes Alan Sinsheimer, mergers and acquisitions; Eli Jacobson, tax; Matthew Friestedt, employee compensation; and S. Neal McKnight, finance.

Schulte Roth represented LNR and Cerberus on this deal. The SRZ team was led by M&A partner John M. Pollack and tax partner Alan S. Waldenberg.

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