Winston, Venable, SNR Denton, Mayer: Business of Law

Winston & Strawn LLP is opening a Brussels office in June, which will be led by antitrust and competition lawyer Peter Crowther. It will be the firm’s 16th office and the fifth in Europe.

“The roster of work for the global competition practice continues to expand and the firm’s decision to open a Brussels office is in line with expected growth,” Jeffrey Kessler, partner and chairman of the firm’s antitrust and competition practice, said in a statement. “Brussels already plays an important role in our practice and we are excited about the opportunity to provide a Brussels hub to support our already extensive global cartel defense and EU competition practice.”

Crowther, a former Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP lawyer, joined Winston & Strawn’s London office as partner in 2012. His practice focuses on European Union merger control, international and national cartels, state aid, trade/sanctions, free movement, the firm said.

Venable Opens Delaware Office Led by New Bankruptcy Partner

Venable LLP opened a Wilmington, Delaware, office, which will be led by new bankruptcy partner Jamie L. Edmonson. She was formerly a director at Wilmington-based Bayard PA.

“This is a terrific development for our firm and obviously for the bankruptcy practice, given how often our work leads to Delaware,””Venable’s bankruptcy and creditor rights practice group chairman, Gregory Cross, said in a statement. “Jamie Edmonson has been intimately involved in a wide range of Chapter 11 cases coming out of Delaware, including some of the biggest filings.”

Edmonson has more than 16 years of experience handling commercial bankruptcies, restructurings, insolvencies, and liquidations, the firm said.

Venable has more than 500 lawyers at eight U.S. offices.


Ex-Kirkland Partner Freedman Pleads Guilty to Income Tax Fraud

Former Kirkland & Ellis LP senior partner Theodore Freedman pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with the filing of false tax forms.

Freedman changed his plea yesterday from not guilty to guilty of four counts of tax fraud. U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan accepted the plea and set sentencing for Sept. 17. Freedman’s lawyers reached a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys.

Indicted in July 2011, Freedman misrepresented his income as a partner at the law firm by about $2 million, the U.S. said. He also claimed more than $500,000 in expenses for a sole proprietorship that didn’t exist, the government said.

“I accept responsibility for the serious underreporting of my taxes,” Freedman, 65, told the judge yesterday. “It has been very hard for me to say these words.”

Freedman was a member of the firm’s restructuring group. His income for the years 2001 through 2004 was $5.39 million, compared with the $2.1 million he reported for the period, the U.S. said in a statement. The tax loss to the government from Freedman’s fraud was more than $1 million, the U.S. said.

At the time of his indictment, Kirkland & Ellis said it “relates exclusively to Mr. Freedman’s personal conduct. Accordingly the firm will not comment on the matter.”

The case is U.S. v. Freedman, 11-cr-00599, U.S. District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


SNR Denton Hires Class Action Team in Flurry of Hires

SNR Denton LLP hired a team of five class action and insurance litigation lawyers, including three partners from Gordon & Rees LLP. The firm also yesterday hired two additional partners in different offices, along with two associates.

From Gordon & Rees LLP, the new partners include Fletcher Alford, Laura Geist and Doug Scullion, who join the litigation practice in the San Francisco office.

“Fletcher, Laura and Doug’s extensive class action and consumer protection litigation experience is a perfect complement to our practice, and they’ll add significantly to our deep bench of litigators and to our growing San Francisco office,” Roger Heidenreich, head of SNR Denton’s U.S. litigation and arbitration practice, said in a statement.

The San Francisco trio is most active in life insurance and annuity products matters, including market conduct and annuity sales practices cases, as well as class actions in the insurance, product liability, and financial-services sectors, the firm said.

Gordon & Rees spokeswoman Colleen McGushin said in an e-mail that the departing team will be missed, though, “Our depth remains extremely robust and we will continue to build Gordon & Rees’s national offices through the addition of excellent attorneys, such as the group of eight new partners we added in Philadelphia just a few weeks ago.”

Yesterday, SNR Denton also announced the hiring of Mark Lunn, formerly of Arent Fox LLP, in the Washington office as a partner in the international trade practice. Lunn has represented clients in trade disputes and advises manufacturers and government entities on cross-border and regulatory matters, such as global trade policy, trade litigation, export controls and sanctions and anticorruption statutes, the firm said.

Oil and gas lawyer John J. Harris also joined SNR Denton as a partner in the Los Angeles office, along with two associates. He was previously at Meyers Nave Riback Silver & Wilson. Harris has more than 30 years of experience in energy law, with a practice that focuses primarily on the oil and gas industry at all stages of the commercial process.

The new hires yesterday come about three weeks before SNR Denton is set to join forces with law firms Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, to create a new 2,500-lawyer firm named Dentons.

The flurry of hires were in the pipeline and are unrelated to the imminent combination, a firm spokesman said.

The merger to create Dentons, scheduled for March 28, will give the new firm 79 locations in 52 countries.

Ex-FCC official Joins Mayer Brown Government and Trade Practice

Mayer Brown LLP said former Federal Communications Commission official Angela Giancarlo joined its Washington office as a partner in the government and global trade practice,

Giancarlo, who spent eight years at the FCC, will focus on regulatory and compliance matters relating to communications technology and services. At the FCC, Giancarlo held senior management positions, including most recently chief of staff and senior legal adviser to Commissioner Robert McDowell.

“Angela played an indispensable role in developing and establishing communications technology policies that have benefited our nation’s communications consumers,” McDowell said in a statement.

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

Drinker Biddle Hires Private Client Partner in Philadelphia

Larissa Whitman joined Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP as a partner in its private client group in Philadelphia. She was previously a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoades LLP.

Whitman’s practice involves the representation of high net-worth individuals and families in estate planning, personal legal and tax-planning services.

Drinker Biddle has 650 lawyers in 11 U.S. offices and an office in London.

Barnes & Thornburg Adds Los Angeles Real Estate Partner

Barnes & Thornburg LLP said Mary J. Garnett joined its Los Angeles office as a partner in the real estate department. She was most recently a partner at Gruenberg Garnett Harris LLP.

Garnett’s practice focuses on real estate and corporate transactions, including acquisitions, dispositions, leasing, financings and joint ventures, the firm said.

She also has been vice president and general counsel of Castle & Cooke Inc., the firm said.

Barnes & Thornburg has more than 600 attorneys and legal professionals at 12 U.S. offices.

Loeb & Loeb Hires Corporate Partner in Chicago

Loeb & Loeb LLP hired Ross D. Emmerman in the Chicago office as a partner in the corporate department. He was previously a partner in the corporate and securities practice at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.

Emmerman has more than 25 years of experience in public and private mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings, venture capital and private equity financings, as well as general corporate counseling and private wealth services.

Emmerman’s clients have included TransUnion Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. and Interpark Holdings LLC.

Loeb & Loeb has more than 300 attorneys at six offices in the U.S. and Beijing.


Autonomy’s Lynch Said to Hire Lawyer Weingarten, CFO Gets Keker

Mike Lynch, former chief executive officer at Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Autonomy unit, hired criminal defense lawyer Reid Weingarten, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

Sushovan Hussain, who was Autonomy’s finance chief, retained attorney John Keker, of  Keker & Van Nest LLP, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Hewlett-Packard said in December that the U.S. Justice Department had opened an investigation into the company’s allegations that British software maker Autonomy misrepresented its performance before being bought last year. The largest personal computer maker booked an $8.8 billion writedown related to Autonomy in November after concluding that some revenue had been recorded prematurely or improperly.

Weingarten’s past clients include ex-WorldCom Inc. Chairman Bernard Ebbers and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein. Keker, who is helping McGraw-Hill Cos. and its Standard & Poor’s unit fight U.S. fraud claims, also represented Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver and banned cyclist Lance Armstrong, as well as vindicated investment banker Frank Quattrone, Enron Corp. executive Andrew Fastow and class-action lawyer William Lerach.

Lynch said in December that he will cooperate with any investigation and rejected allegations of wrongdoing.

Weingarten and Keker didn’t immediately return phone messages seeking comment. The person asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The hiring of the lawyers was reported earlier by the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

Separately, PGGM Vermogensbeheer BV, a Dutch pension administrator, was appointed lead plaintiff in investor lawsuits against Hewlett-Packard over the Autonomy writedown.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco consolidated securities class action, or group, lawsuits against the computer maker in an order March 4. PGGM, with $35.1 million in losses from the drop in HP’s stock after the writedown was disclosed, has the largest financial interest in the litigation, Breyer ruled.

Hewlett-Packard agreed to buy Autonomy for $10.3 billion in 2011. More than $5 billion of the writedown was the result of accounting practices at Autonomy, Hewlett-Packard said. About $200 million of Autonomy’s revenue had been recorded prematurely or improperly, the company’s general counsel said.

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP was named lead counsel in the securities class-action lawsuit. PGGM may propose an alternate law firm to lead the case, Breyer said in his ruling.

Law firms that lead group lawsuits manage and control the single, consolidated case. A new, consolidated complaint will be filed within 60 days, Ramzi Abadou, an attorney for PGGM at Keller Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, said in a phone interview. He declined to comment further.

Individual investor Stanley Morrical was appointed lead plaintiff in the lawsuits against Hewlett-Packard filed by investors on behalf of the company. Burlingame, California-based Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP was named lead counsel for the so-called shareholder derivative lawsuits, Breyer said.

The securities class action case is In Re HP Securities Litigation, 12-cv-5980; the derivative case is Riccardi v. Lynch, 12-cv-06003 and the employee case is In Re HP ERISA, 12-06199, all in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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Lawyers in Talks to Merge South African Mine Silicosis Lawsuits

Lawyers representing workers who contracted silicosis after working on mines in South Africa say they will merge damages lawsuits filed against AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Harmony Gold Mining Co. and other employers.

“We have an in-principle agreement” to consolidate the cases, Richard Spoor, who represents about 18,000 workers and dependents of those who died from their illness, said in a mobile phone interview yesterday. “We haven’t got final agreement on the terms and we are having furious debates and engagements to try and settle that.”

Spoor filed a damages application against 30 companies in December last year. A separate suit by Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys brought in August on behalf of about 3,000 miners seeks compensation from AngloGold, Harmony and Gold Fields Ltd.

South Africa’s highest court cleared the way for damages claims to be brought against gold companies in March 2011 by ruling that former miner Thembekile Mankayi could pursue a 2.7 million-rand ($300,000) claim against AngloGold. Gold companies including AngloGold deny liability, and say they will oppose the lawsuits.

“The respondents are off the hook,” Spoor said. “They have got nothing to do until we sort out our own problems and then give them a timetable to respond.”

The number of workers and dependents party to the Abrahams Kiewitz lawsuit has swelled to more than 5,000 since August, and is growing daily, said Charles Abrahams, a partner at the law firm. He confirmed that the cases will be combined.

“What we are now busy doing is working out the mechanisms with regard to how that will be given effect,” he said by phone from Cape Town yesterday. “We are in process of communicating that to the respondent attorneys.”

Silicosis is caused by prolonged exposure to dust in mines, leaving irreversible scar tissue in lungs and making it hard to breathe. It also heightens the risk of contracting tuberculosis.

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Virgin Media’s Lawyer on Liberty Global Deal

Timothy Peterson, partner and member of the securities group at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about his representation of Virgin Media Inc. in its recent acquisition by Liberty Global, Inc. The stock and cash merger is valued at about $23.3 billion.

Peterson, in this “Rainmakers” episode, also explains the reasons for increased M&A activity in Europe’s television market.

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