Drinker Biddle, Duane Morris, DLA Piper: Business of Law

Mary Hansen, assistant director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement in the agency’s Philadelphia office, joined Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP as a partner in the firm’s commercial litigation practice. She will practice in the Philadelphia office as part of the firm’s white collar team.

Hansen will focus her practice on representing individuals and corporate clients in regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, internal corporate investigations and white collar criminal actions, as well as compliance and prevention strategies and programs.

Alfred W. Putnam Jr., Drinker Biddle’s chairman, said in a statement that Hansen “brings SEC experience and expertise to an already impressive group of high ranking former government lawyers who’ve joined the firm recently.”

Hansen joined the SEC in 2004. At the agency, Hansen, a member of the Market Abuse Unit and the Municipal Securities and Public Pension unit, investigated and developed complex litigation strategies for numerous matters involving potential violations of federal securities law, including broker-dealer and investment adviser fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, unlawful insider trading by securities industry professionals and corporate executives, as well as municipal offering fraud.

Drinker Biddle has 650 attorneys in 11 offices nationwide.

Law Firms

Duane Morris Expands With Joint Venture in Mideast

Duane Morris LLP has opened its first office in the Middle East through a joint venture with the Al Mashaikhi Law Firm, a multi-practice law firm in Muscat, Oman. The new joint venture, to be known as the Dr. Said Al Mashaikhi and Partner Law Firm, expands the capabilities and geographic reach of both firms, Duane Morris said. The Omani firm was founded by name partner Dr. Said Al Mashaikhi, and Duane Morris partner Jeffrey Rodwell, formerly based in Duane Morris’s London office, who relocated to Muscat to serve as the managing director.

In 2010, Duane Morris formed an enhanced joint law venture with Selvam LLC in Singapore, creating Duane Morris & Selvam LLP. In 2011 the firm formed a strategic alliance with Mexico City firm Miranda & Estavillo. Duane Morris also has offices in London, as well as in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, in addition to its 20 U.S. locations.

DLA Piper Downplays Fee E-mails in Bankruptcy Case

The day after e-mails suggesting that lawyers at DLA Piper LLP had “churned” work to beef up the fees in a bankruptcy matter, the firm’s leaders tried to downplay the significance of the correspondence.

In an e-mail to the firm’s attorneys obtained by Bloomberg News, the co-chairmen of the firm for the Americas, Roger Meltzer and Jay Rains, and co-managing partners for the Americas Anastasia Kelly and Michael Poulos said that “the e-mails were in fact an offensive and inexcusable effort at humor, but in no way reflect actual excessive billing.”

The four also defended the fees charged. The dispute is pending in New York state court.

The case is DLA Piper v. Victor, 650374/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).


Argentina Loses Bid for Full-Court Rehearing in Bond Appeal

Argentina’s request that the full federal appeals court in New York reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel was denied in a case involving $1.3 billion in defaulted bonds.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan yesterday said the full court won’t rehear the appeal, leaving in place an Oct. 26 ruling that bars Argentina from treating restructured-debt holders more favorably than holders of the repudiated debt. The court is separately considering a related appeal, argued last month, about the details of how a lower court may enforce the October ruling.

Argentina defaulted on a record $95 billion in debt in 2001. Holders of about 91 percent of the bonds agreed to take new exchange bonds in 2005 and 2010, at a deep discount. The country claims that a ruling forcing it to pay creditors who hold defaulted bonds, led by Elliott Management Corp.’s NML Capital Ltd., would open it up to more than $43 billion in additional claims it can’t pay and trigger a new default.

In October, the appeals court affirmed a decision by U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa that an equal-treatment, or pari passu, clause in the original bond agreements prevents Argentina from treating holders of defaulted bonds less favorably than the holders of the restructured bonds. The appeals court also said Griesa may bar Argentina from paying on the restructured debt without also making payments on the defaulted bonds.

On Feb. 27, the three-judge panel denied Argentina’s request to rehear the appeal. In a related appeals court argument in the case the same day, a lawyer for Argentina told the same three judges that the nation will default on the restructured debt if it’s forced to also pay holders of the defaulted bonds.

Because the pari passu ruling is based on New York State contract law, it’s unlikely the issue will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest federal appeals court.

The lower court case is NML Capital Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina, 08-06978, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The appeal is NML Capital Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina, 12-00105, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).

Greenwich Village Residents Appeal Dismissal of NYU Suit

Residents of a group of high-rise buildings in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village appealed a judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit seeking to block New York University’s expansion plans.

Tenants of Washington Square Village sued the school in August, seeking a court order stopping the university from taking any action to eliminate a two-acre park in the center of the cluster of buildings or to remove a commercial strip and garden that form the park’s boundary.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Ellen M. Coin on March 14 denied their request for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs first need to raise the matter with the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The tenants filed a notice of appeal yesterday.

They intend to ask the appeals court whether the school can “unilaterally eliminate a required ancillary service” when case law shows that rent-stabilized tenants in the city have a right to a garden or park and that landlords can’t eliminate them without an administrative proceeding, according to the notice.

The tenants said they will also ask whether they’re entitled to an injunction to “preserve the status quo” while they file complaints with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, and whether the lower court abused its discretion in dismissing the case.

The New York City Council voted in July to let New York University add 1.9 million square feet to the campus for classrooms, a gym and housing in the face of objections from residents and faculty who said it would change the character of the neighborhood.

The $6 billion expansion is opposed by dozens of university departments and divisions and has sparked lawsuits from community residents and faculty members. Professors in the university’s largest school passed a vote of no-confidence in President John Sexton on March 16, saying he failed to consult with them on the plan.

The case is WSV Green Neighbors Inc. v. New York University, 155507/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

Wal-Mart Sues Union in Florida Over Store Demonstrations

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, filed trespassing claims in a lawsuit against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and other groups holding demonstrations at its stores in Florida.

The company, in a complaint filed March 22 in Orange County, Florida, seeks a court order restraining the group and several individuals from trespassing on Wal-Mart property to picket, demonstrate, disrupt customers or confront managers. Wal-Mart employees aren’t unionized.

The lawsuit is aimed at the UFCW, its subsidiary OURWalmart and another group that allegedly trespassed 73 times in 13 states in the past year, Steven Wheeless, a Wal-Mart attorney, said in a letter to the union’s general counsel filed with the lawsuit.

“Wal-Mart files this action after repeatedly warning the union that it would act to protect its property interests and its associates’ work environment if the union did not stop its illegal conduct,” Wheeless said.

OURWalmart said store managers have reacted in an extreme manner and harassed one Florida employee when she walked off the job and peacefully protested with her family outside a store.

“This lawsuit looks to be another meritless attempt by Wal-Mart to silence workers and the community rather than hear our concerns,” the union said yesterday in an e-mail. “Rather than creating good jobs with steady hours and affordable health care, Wal-Mart’s pattern is to focus its energies on infringing on our freedom of speech.”

The case is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Circuit Court, Orange County, Florida.

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