Gibson Dunn, Drinker Biddle, Venable: Business of Law

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP appointed corporate partner Beau Stark as the partner in charge of the firm’s Denver office. He replaces Richard Russo, who retired from the firm.

Stark is a partner in the firm’s corporate transactions practice group, where he advises clients in the energy and mining, ski, and other sectors. He has experience in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, public offerings, capital markets transactions, securities offerings, management participation and financing, tender offers, private fund formation and general corporate matters, the firm said.

Russo was a founder of the Denver office, which opened in 1981, and a former co-chairman of the corporate transactions practice group.

Gibson Dunn has more than 1,100 lawyers and 17 offices in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


Cadwalader Pays Ocala $125,000, Waives $1.6 Million

Ocala Funding LLC, a subsidiary of previously bankrupt Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., negotiated a settlement where law firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP will pay $125,000 and give up a claim for more than $1.6 million.

Lawyers from Cadwalader, based in New York, represented Taylor Bean before bankruptcy. Ocala followed Taylor Bean by filing its own Chapter 11 petition in July.

Although listing Cadwalader as being owed $1.6 million for legal services, Ocala said it might have claims against the firm for work done before bankruptcy.

Deciding that claims against the firm “would be difficult to prove,” Ocala decided to settle. At a hearing on March 6 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Florida, the judge will decide if it’s sufficient for Cadwalader to waive the $1.6 million claim and pay $125,000.

Ocala filed a proposed Chapter 11 plan this month to implement an agreement reached before bankruptcy with holders of almost all of Ocala’s $1.5 billion in secured and $800 million in unsecured claims. The plan will create a trust to prosecute lawsuits on behalf of creditors with more than $2.5 billion in claims. The explanatory disclosure statement is scheduled for approval at the March 6 hearing. For details, click here for the Feb. 6 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.

Wholly owned by Taylor Bean, Ocala was supposed to be a bankruptcy-remote entity to purchase mortgage loans made by Taylor Bean that in turn would be sold to Freddie Mac. According to a court filing by Ocala, Taylor Bean’s former Chairman Lee Farkas caused Ocala to make $805 million in improper transfers to cover up a fraud he was conducting at Taylor Bean.

Farkas was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after being convicted on 14 counts of conspiracy and bank, wire and securities fraud in what prosecutors said was a $3 billion scheme involving fake mortgage assets.

The Ocala bankruptcy is In re Ocala Funding LLC, 12-04524, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville). The parent’s case is Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., 09-07047, same court.


Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Collins Joins Drinker Biddle

Daniel J. Collins a federal prosecutor who handled the case of David Headley, a U.S. citizen who was an advance scout in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people, joined Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP as a partner in the firm’s Chicago office.

Collins, who spent 10 years as a federal prosecutor, was the deputy chief in the Financial Crimes and Special Prosecutions section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where he oversaw fraud and financing investigations, the firm said. He also managed investigations into export/import laws and international sanctions-controls violations for the past seven years, the firm said.

Collins will focus on representing companies and individuals responding to government inquiries, in criminal matters and high-stakes civil litigation, the firm said.

Drinker Biddle has 650 lawyers in 11 U.S. offices.

Business and Finance Attorney Travis Leach Joins Ballard Spahr

Corporate and securities attorney Travis J. Leach joined Ballard Spahr LLP as a partner in the Phoenix office from Jennings Strouss & Salmon Plc. He will be a member of the mergers and acquisitions/private equity, securities, sports, and transactional finance groups.

Leach handles mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, private placements, corporate governance matters, and Sarbanes-Oxley and Securities and Exchange Commission compliance matters, the firm said.

He also counsels professional sports organizations, ownership groups, athletes, coaches and entertainers in contract and licensing negotiations and other business ventures.

Ballard Spahr has more than 500 lawyers in 13 offices in the U.S.

Import-Export Lawyer Joins Edwards Wildman in Stamford

Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP hired John C. Fusco as a partner in the business law department in Stamford, Connecticut. Fusco joins from the Hartford office of Shipman & Goodwin LLP, where he was a partner.

Fusco focuses his practice on international trade and government contracting, including export compliance and controls and U.S. Customs and trade laws, the firm said.

Edwards Wildman has 625 lawyers at 15 offices in the U.S., London and Asia.

Lavely & Singer Partner Joins Venable in Los Angeles

Venable LLP hired entertainment-industry lawyer William J. Briggs II in the firm’s Los Angeles office as a partner in the commercial litigation group. Previously, Briggs was a partner at Lavely & Singer in Los Angeles.

Briggs has trial and complex litigation experience in contractual matters and discrimination and harassment lawsuits, as well as copyright, trademark and trade-secret issues.

Venable has seven U.S. offices.

Two Jackson Lewis Philadelphia Partners Joins Fisher & Phillips

Fisher & Phillips LLP hired two Philadelphia labor and employment attorneys from Jackson Lewis LLP, including the latter firm’s former founding managing partner, Rick Grimaldi. Lori Armstrong Halber also joins the firm as a partner from Jackson Lewis.

Both Grimaldi and Armstrong Halber represent employers in labor relations and employment law, including discrimination and wrongful discharge litigation and wage and hours matters, and assist businesses in traditional labor matters such as union organizing and arbitration, the firm said.

Before entering into private practice, Grimaldi held a senior position in the legal department of Unisys Corp. He also served as deputy general counsel to then-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and was chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the firm said.

Armstrong Halber is also an adjunct professor of employment discrimination law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.

Fisher & Phillips has more than 275 attorneys in 28 U.S. offices.


America’s Oldest Director Quits at 96 to Focus on Tax Law Firm

Mortimer Caplin, who is stepping down from the board of Danaher Corp. at age 96, said the departure will allow him to spend more time on two of his longtime passions: tax law and the University of Virginia.

“I’m still practicing law, and our firm is very heavily involved in the tax world,” Caplin, founder of Caplin & Drysdale, said yesterday in a phone interview. “I swim every day and I’m at the office every day.”

The attorney will resign in May as a director at Danaher, after serving on the board since 1990, the Washington-based provider of measuring and diagnostic equipment said in a filing.

“I haven’t regarded age as a real factor,” Caplin said. “It’s a question of capability and I suppose willingness at the same time.”

Caplin was appointed commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service in 1961 by then-President John F. Kennedy after previously teaching law at the University of Virginia, where Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy were among his students.

Caplin received a doctor of juridical science degree from New York University. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served as a beachmaster in the Normandy invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, according to a biography on his law firm’s website.

Caplin founded Caplin & Drysdale after leaving the IRS. The law firm has offices in Washington and New York and provides tax advice to corporate and individual clients.

For more, click here.


Obama S&P Pursuit Started When Toxic Debt Masqueraded as AAA

When the U.S. Justice Department charged Standard & Poor’s with fraud earlier this month and demanded $5 billion in restitution, it was the culmination of the Obama administration’s four-year pursuit of financial chicanery masquerading as sacrosanct credit ratings, Bloomberg News’ Phil Mattingly reports.

Two dozen lawyers were assigned to a probe they called “Alchemy,” for the medieval pseudo-science that tried to turn lead into gold, as the department modeled a federal case on an analogy for failed mortgage-debt packages. They dug into 30 million documents, found cooperating witnesses and say they’ve got the evidence to win in court on an issue President Barack Obama since 2009 has been saying helped bring the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse.

A review of legislative and regulatory documents and interviews with current and former administration officials shows that frustration with New York-based S&P, the nation’s largest ratings firm, Moody’s Corp. and Fitch Ratings has existed almost since Obama took office.

What started as an effort by Obama’s Treasury Department to right a system reeling from the worst financial breakdown in eight decades has now become a Justice Department lawsuit seeking $5 billion from S&P’s parent, McGraw-Hill Cos., after months of failed settlement talks.

The Justice Department, 16 states and the District of Columbia are suing the firm for fraud. Attorney General Eric Holder called its practices “egregious” and his deputy Tony West, the department’s third-ranked official, said the company played “a significant role in helping to bring our economy to the brink of collapse.”

“The company does not believe the cases have legal or factual merit and we intend to defend the company vigorously,” Kenneth Vittor, McGraw-Hill’s general counsel, said yesterday in the company’s fourth quarter earnings conference call with investors. Vittor cited the more than 40 other cases the company has fended off in the wake of the financial crisis.

The Justice Department says it’s ready for court. It also doesn’t rule out renewed talks. Nor did Vittor yesterday.

“Our lawyers and staff served hundreds of civil subpoenas, spent thousands of hours reviewing and analyzing millions of pages of documents, and contacted and interviewed over 150 witnesses, including dozens of former S&P analysts and executives,” Stuart Delery, head of the Justice Department’s civil division, said last week flanked by seven of the 17 state and District of Columbia attorneys general who have also brought suits against the company.

Both sides say they are ready to take the case, filed in California, to court. S&P hired John Keker, the San Francisco trial attorney who has represented investment banker Frank Quattrone and Enron Corp. executive Andrew Fastow, to join its team defending the company. Quattrone, founder of Qatalyst Partners, won dismissal of all criminal charges that he obstructed a federal investigation into Credit Suisse AG. Fastow pleaded guilty in 2004 to two counts of wire and securities fraud.

Holder said the Justice Department “would not have brought this case unless we felt we had a case that we could bring and that we would win.”

For more, click here.


Dewey Workers’ Class-Action Suit Survives for Now

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, the defunct law firm, failed to persuade the bankruptcy judge to dismiss a class lawsuit brought on behalf of 550 former employees who were fired without the 60 days’ notice required by federal labor law.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn wrote a 19-page opinion this week rebuffing Dewey’s effort at requiring every one of the former employees to file a claim separately in the bankruptcy that began in May. The bankruptcy may be largely wrapped up at a Feb. 27 confirmation hearing for approval of a Chapter 11 plan based on contributions to be made under settlements with former partners.

For the time being at least, Glenn turned down Dewey’s attempt at dismissing the suit under the so-called liquidating fiduciary principle, where a trustee for a business in liquidation isn’t held responsible for mass firings without notice. Glenn said facts to be developed at trial might support the defense and result in dismissal of all employees’ claims.

Glenn will allow the suit to proceed as a class-action for now. There will be a later hearing to decide formally if a class-action is proper.

As a result of a previously approved settlement with a larger partner group, the firm estimated that available asset proceeds for distribution to creditors will range from $146.8 million to $246.7 million. The midpoint recoveries for secured and unsecured creditors are 58.4 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively. For details on the Dewey plan, click here for the Nov. 23 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.

The firm once had 1,300 lawyers before liquidation began under Chapter 11 in May. 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 petition listed assets of $193 million and liabilities of $245.4 million as of April 30.

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


NHL’s Lawyer: Lockouts Are ‘Necessary’ Weapons

Robert Batterman, senior member of the Sports Law Group at Proskauer Rose LLP, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about his representation of the National Hockey League during recent negotiations with its players’ union to form a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, the longest in NHL history. The league and the National Hockey League Players’ Association approved the contract’s framework in January to begin a lockout-shortened season.

Batterman, who similarly serves as labor counsel for the National Football League and Major League Soccer, also discusses in this “Rainmakers” episode the “economically justifiable” reasons for lockouts this round in the NHL, NFL and NBA.

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

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