Archer & Greiner, McDermott, Davis Polk: Business of Law

New Jersey-based law firm Archer & Greiner PC dismissed 14 attorneys, including seven nonequity partners across a mix of practices, firm President Christopher Gibson said.

The 200-lawyer firm with nine offices in cities including in New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, also fired 27 staff members. The cuts included lawyers in the litigation, intellectual property, trusts and estates and corporate departments.

“We had, over the last five years, grown from about 150 to 210 or 220 lawyers through mergers in Philadelphia and Hackensack,” Gibson said in a telephone interview. “Throughout that period of time, while a lot of firms were letting lawyers and staff go in record numbers and waves, we didn’t cut a soul. The simple truth is that just like our clients we’ve had to learn to do more with less.”

Gibson said that the firm’s revenue rose about 50 percent from 2008 to 2012. Gross revenue for 2011 was $88 million and for 2012 was $96.8 million, a record increase, according to the firm. Gibson said that as a result of tightening their ranks, they’ll be freer to embrace new opportunities.

The firm opened a Monmouth County office with three lawyers within the last year. It’s in discussions with a specialty practice group that would add another four attorneys to that office, he said.

Baker Botts Announces New Management Appointments

Baker Botts LLP announced several management changes yesterday, including naming Jamie Baker as chairman and Jason Bennett as deputy chairman of the firm’s global projects department. John Taladay is the new partner in charge of the Washington office.

Global projects chairman Baker will lead a team that advises clients on the acquisition, divestiture, development and financing of energy and infrastructure projects. He replaces Stuart Schaffer, who held that position since 2002, and will retire from the firm at the end of this month, the firm said. Baker will also retain his current position as the firm’s international partner, coordinating the firm’s international practice and strategy.

Taladay, a former Howrey LLP lawyer who joined the firm in 2011, succeeds Jamie Baker as partner-in-charge of the Washington office. He currently co-chairs the firm’s antitrust department along with Sean Boland.

Paul Cuomo, an antitrust lawyer and former Howrey lawyer, will continue as the office’s deputy partner-in-charge.

Baker Botts has approximately 725 lawyers at 14 offices worldwide.


Dewey Executives Attempt to Transfer Aviva Suit

The three former top executives from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, the defunct law firm, are trying to extricate themselves from a lawsuit filed against them in Iowa by Aviva Life & Annuity Co.

The Des Moines, Iowa-based insurance company explained in the complaint filed in December how the trio induced the insurance company into purchasing $35 million of secured notes in April 2010. Aviva said the firm represented that it was “financially sound” when there was $100 million in “undisclosed debt to certain highly compensated partners.”

Aviva sued Steven Davis, the former Dewey chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, the former executive director; and Joel Sanders, the chief financial officer. The firm itself wasn’t named as a defendant in the suit.

The Dewey managers filed papers this week asking the district judge in Des Moines to transfer the case to the bankruptcy court in New York, where Dewey’s bankruptcy is pending. The firm’s liquidating Chapter 11 plan was approved with a confirmation order signed in February.

The Dewey managers argue that the suit belongs in bankruptcy court because it’s really a claim against the firm. The suit also involves the bankrupt estate because recovery would come from an insurance policy that is Dewey’s property.

Aviva’s complaint alleges that Dewey kept obligations secret even from the firm’s own partners to avoid the “possibility of a mass defection” and misstated “revenues by over $100 million per year.” The firm managers say that the insurance company was given a private placement memorandum that “clearly explained the dire financial situation.”

Previously, Ned Bassen from Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, attorneys for DiCarmine and Sanders, said the suit was “preposterous.”

Dewey 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. The firm estimated that midpoint recoveries for secured and unsecured creditors under the plan would be 58.4 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively.

The Iowa lawsuit is Aviva Life & Annuity Co. v. Davis, 12-603, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa (Des Moines). The bankruptcy case is In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, 12-12321, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

White Promises Investor Advocacy as SEC Chief at Senate Hearing

Mary Jo White, President Barack Obama’s choice to run the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, told lawmakers that her work for Wall Street firms won’t affect her ability to be a zealous advocate for investors.

The scope of any conflicts of interest is “quite narrow” and would mostly affect SEC enforcement cases, White, 65, said yesterday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on her nomination. Her participation in writing regulations will be unaffected by her previous representation of clients such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and UBS AG as a defense lawyer, she said.

“The public investors should know I am their advocate,” White said. As a U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2002, “I was exceptionally aggressive against large institutions, CEOs and large executive types,” she said.

White, who has said she would retire from New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP if she’s confirmed, drew bipartisan support at the hearing before the Democrat-led panel. Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said last week he wasn’t ready to support White because of concerns over conflicts of interest.

White said her first priority would be completing rules required by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 and last year’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. The SEC should consistently consider the economic costs and benefits of new rules “from the outset,” she wrote in her prepared remarks.

She told the committee that the SEC, not the banking regulators who are members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, should write new rules for money-market mutual funds.

White was the focus of most questions at the hearing, where senators also questioned Richard Cordray, Obama’s nominee to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans are blocking full Senate consideration of Cordray, looking to restructure the bureau’s leadership and gain oversight over its budget before voting on a permanent director.

White has spent much of her 38-year legal career at Debevoise, where she earned $2.4 million last year. She also represented former Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis during an SEC probe of bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch & Co.’s executives before Bank of America bought the brokerage.

Her history as an attorney for banks could make her more appealing to some Republicans because it suggests she understands how regulations affect companies, according to Richard C. Breeden, a Republican and SEC chairman from 1989 to 1993.

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Former Howrey Partners Sued for Fraudulent Transfers

The trustee liquidating Howrey LLP filed lawsuits in bankruptcy court this week against six of the defunct law firm’s former partners. The suits contend the former partners are liable to give up profits they made at new firms in finishing business begun at Howrey.

From three of the partners, the suits are seeking $3.75 million in distributions the firm made after June 2010, when the trustee believes Howrey became insolvent. The trustee contends the payments to the partners were fraudulent transfers because there were no profits available for distribution to partners.

The suits to recover profits from unfinished business are based on what’s known as the Jewel doctrine, named after a California decision holding former partners liable to give up profits made at their new firms. Courts are split on whether the Jewel doctrine is good everywhere.

The issue is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan arising from the liquidation of Coudert Brothers LLP.

Federal district judges in Manhattan are split on whether profits at a new firm must be given up. In September U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ruled in a case involving Thelen LLP that hourly fees earned on unfinished business by a new law firm aren’t property of the defunct firm. Pauley disagreed with a decision in May by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon who ruled in the Coudert liquidation that fees earned on unfinished business belong to the liquidated firm.

The case is In re Howrey LLP, 11-bk-031376, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).


Clifford Chance Dealmaker Brian Hoffmann to Rejoin McDermott

Brian Hoffmann, co-chairman of Clifford Chance LLP’s mergers and acquisitions practice in the Americas, will rejoin McDermott Will & Emery LLP as a partner.

Hoffmann is returning to McDermott’s New York office, where he was a partner from 1995 to 1999, McDermott said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Hoffmann’s “long history leading sophisticated corporate transactions, including public mergers and acquisitions, will enable us to meet growing demand from clients all over the world,” David Goldman, head of McDermott’s corporate advisory practice group, said in the statement.

Hoffmann, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, specializes in M&A, high-yield and other complex corporate transactions, according to his biography on Clifford Chance’s website. He was a partner at that firm since 2002.

K&L Gates Hires Banking and Finance Partner in Brisbane Office

The Brisbane office of K&L Gates LLP has added Deborah Bean as a partner in the finance practice. She joins the firm from Gadens Lawyers. K&L Gates also added John P. Scordo as a partner in the firm’s insurance coverage practice. Scordo joins from Day Pitney LLP.

Over a 20-year career, Bean has spent 20 years advising the top four banks and other financial institutions on institutional and property banking transactions, the firm said. She also has experience in commercial construction projects, agribusiness, retirement and aged care, pharmacy, and energy and resources.

Scordo counsels clients on liability, litigation, and insurance coverage issues involving privacy, data breach, and data protection. He has experience in complex insurance claims and coverage matters concerning many types of policies, including general and professional liability, directors’ and officers’, property/business interruption, fiduciary, environmental, employment, life/accident, media/publishers, and health and group benefits, among others.

K&L Gates has 47 offices in the U.S., Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Latham & Watkins Hires Manatt Partner in Los Angeles

Yi-Chin Ho has joined Latham & Watkins LLP’s Los Angeles office as a partner in the litigation department. She was previously at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, where she was a partner and served as the firm’s Director of Asia Development and Strategic Growth.

Ho is a general commercial litigator with experience advising on antitrust and trade regulation, intellectual property and white collar investigation matters for clients in Asia and the U.S.

Ho’s practice centers on representing Chinese and Taiwanese companies on litigation matters including price fixing class actions, predatory pricing actions, patent litigation, International Trade Commission investigations, white-collar and government investigations, and complex commercial litigation. She has experience litigating commercial disputes in arbitrations, mediations, court and jury trials and appeals.

Latham & Watkins has approximately 2,000 attorneys in 31 offices, in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


Heinz’s Lawyer: Inside the Berkshire/3G Deal

John Bick, head of the corporate department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about his representation of H.J. Heinz Co. in its recent acquisition by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital. The ketchup maker was acquired for approximately $23 billion in the biggest U.S. acquisition this year.

Bick, in this “Rainmakers” episode, also explains the significance of the deal for the M&A market and reasons for the “surge” of M&A activity in 2013.

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