Orrick, Skadden, Mayer, Sheppard Mullin: Business of Law

When the Supreme Court hears a case today weighing what remedy there should be after a federal judge was involved in a plea agreement, an Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP associate with 2 1/2 years at the firm will be making the arguments for the defendant.

Joshua Rosenkranz, head of Orrick’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, handed the reins to Robert Yablon, a senior associate who clerked for both Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and then for Justice Sonia Sotomayor before joining the firm.

“Rob is the full package,” Rosenkranz said in a phone interview April 12. “He is analytically brilliant. He is highly strategic. He is able to articulate in crisp clear prose the nub of the answer to any question, and he’s unflappable.”

The case reached the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit vacated Anthony Davila’s guilty plea for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by obtaining false tax refunds because a magistrate judge advised him to plead guilty to avoid a long prison term. The judge’s advice violated federal statute, the court found.

The government, in appealing, sought clarification on whether there can be any judicial participation in plea negotiations or whether judicial involvement requires that a defendant’s guilty plea be vacated, even if the participation didn’t prejudice the defendant.

“This case is about the process of plea-bargaining, and that is the way the vast majority of cases in the criminal justice system get resolved,” Yablon said in an interview April 12. “There are not that many Supreme Court cases addressing plea bargaining, so this gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to give guidance on the subject.”

Yablon has worked on the case since it came in the door at Orrick and was involved in strategy from the beginning, Rosenkranz said.

Being a two-time Supreme Court clerk “takes the edge off the nerves,” Yablon said, although the experience didn’t diminish his preparation. He spent hours intensively reviewing briefs and materials and in practice moot courts with Rosenkranz and others at the firm.

Yablon said he was grateful to Rosenkranz for the opportunity to argue his first case and called it “a good illustration of an ethos we have in our practice.”

Rosenkranz, who last month obtained a landmark victory from the Supreme Court in one of the top business and consumer cases in the court’s nine-month term, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, which addressed copyright law and the “gray market,” said he had no problem giving up the opportunity to argue another case before the justices.

“I am an appellate lawyer. It’s all I do and I love handling the highest-stake cases in any court,” he said, “I’ve never felt the object of the game was to get as many notches in my belt.”

The case is U.S. v. Davila, 12-167, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).


Skadden, A&O Advise on $9.8 Billion JAB, Master Blenders Deal

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is representing Joh. A. Benckiser, the investment arm of the billionaire Reimann family, which agreed to buy D.E Master Blenders 1753 NV for about 7.5 billion euros ($9.8 billion) to build a coffee conglomerate in the industry’s biggest deal ever. Allen & Overy LLP represented D.E. Master Blenders.

The Skadden team includes partners Sean Doyle and Paul Schnell, mergers and acquisitions, and Mark Darley, banking.

Additional lawyers on the deal include partners Michael Zeidel, Michelle Gasaway and Danny Tricot, corporate finance; Frederic Depoortere, antitrust; and Victor Hollender and Gavin White, tax.

Allen & Overy’s U.S. team was led by partner Peter Harwich and two associates. Allen & Overy as well as De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek NV represented DEMB in the Netherlands. The A&O team was led by partners Jan Louis Burggraaf and Tim Stevens. The De Brauw team was led by Jan Willem Hoevers.

JAB was also represented by Stibbe in the Netherlands, with a team led by Bjorn van der Klip and Derk Lemstra.

JAB will pay 12.50 euros a share, the companies said in a statement April 12, less than the price the parties disclosed they were discussing last month. Amsterdam-based Master Blenders’ board supports the offer, it said in the statement.

The purchase of the Senseo maker, which was spun off by Sara Lee Corp. last year, will give JAB a platform to expand its coffee business both organically and by acquisition, JAB Chairman Bart Becht said. JAB agreed to buy U.S.-based coffee chains Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc. and Caribou Coffee Co. for a total of more than $1 billion last year.

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Firm News

Sheppard Mullin Re-Elects Guy Halgren as Chairman

Sheppard Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP’s executive committee chairman, Guy N. Halgren, was re-elected to a fifth consecutive three-year term. He has held the position since 2001 and is the first chairman to lead the firm for more than three terms.

“Our partnership is very fortunate to have Guy at the helm for another term. He’s smart, fair and forward-thinking,” Lawrence M. Braun, a member of the executive committee and a Los Angeles-based corporate partner, said in a statement. “Guy has been instrumental in growing the firm in terms of size, locations and practice areas, while preserving Sheppard Mullin’s tradition of collegiality and entrepreneurship.”

In the past 12 years, the firm has grown to more than 600 attorneys, more than double the headcount in 2001. The firm also has grown to 16 offices from four, transforming from a California firm into an international one with locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Brussels and London. Gross revenue under Halgren’s leadership has increased to $438 million from $149 million, the firm said.

Orange County, California, business trial partner Robert S. Beall also was re-elected as the firm’s managing partner for another three-year term. Beall, who has held this position since 2005, also was re-elected to the firm’s executive committee for another three-year term.

Century City, California, partner Jon W. Newby was elected to the newly created position of vice chairman. Newby, a corporate partner, also serves as the practice group co-chairman and is a member of the executive committee.

Partners Geraldine Ann Freeman, Jerry J. Gumpel and Hal Milstein were elected to the executive committee. Freeman is based in the San Francisco office and is co-head of the firm’s finance and bankruptcy practice group. Gumpel is based in the firm’s Del Mar, California, office and is co-head of the international practice and member of the corporate practice group. Milstein is based in the Palo Alto, California, office and is a member of the firm’s IP practice group.


Mayer Brown Hires Assistant U.S. Attorney for White-Collar Group

Michael Martinez, executive assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey, joined Mayer Brown LLP in New York as a partner in the litigation and dispute resolution practice and white collar defense and compliance group.

“Mike’s proven track record in handling a wide array of high-level white collar matters will add further depth to our capabilities in this area,” Steven Wolowitz, co-leader of Mayer Brown’s global litigation and dispute resolution practice, said in a statement.

From 2000 to 2008, Martinez worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s appeals division, government fraud unit and securities and health-care fraud unit. He also served as acting chief of the terrorism unit.

In 2008, Martinez joined Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP in New York as a special counsel, representing individuals and corporations in criminal and civil investigations.

He returned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey two years later, where he developed, reorganized and managed the office’s white collar programs, and supervised 145 attorneys in criminal and civil cases brought by the office, among other responsibilities, the firm said.

Mayer Brown has lawyers at offices in the Americas, Asia and Europe.

Troutman Sanders Hires Lobbyist Lawyer Bert Pena

H.R. Bert Pena, a lobbyist and lawyer representing U.S. and international clients, joined the Washington office of Troutman Sanders Strategies. He will also be a partner with Troutman Sanders LLP. He was previously a partner in charge of the federal affairs section of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, the firm said in a statement.

Pena has represented agricultural producers, oil companies and health-care firms, as well as trade associations, multinational organizations, municipalities and counties, the firm said. He was chief of staff to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture.

“Bert Pena is a well-known name and brand in the lobbying industry, and he brings a unique and valuable skill set, practicing as both a lobbyist and lawyer,” Amie V. Colby, managing partner of Troutman Sanders’ Washington office, said in a statement. “His addition to the Washington, D.C., office is reflective of the firm’s strategy of continuing to expand our highly regarded regulatory practices.”

Troutman Sanders has more than 600 lawyers at offices throughout North America and in Asia.

Mintz Levin Adds Product Liability and Life Sciences Partners

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo PC added a product-liability group to its San Francisco office with the addition of Daniel J. Herling and Michelle Gillette, who join as members. Both lawyers were formerly with Keller & Heckman LLP.

Herling focuses his trial practice on complex litigation, including product liability, class actions, intellectual property litigation, patent infringement and professional liability, the firm said in a statement.

Gillette is a litigator, with a background defending medical device and pharmaceutical companies in product-liability actions in individual lawsuits, multidistrict litigation and class actions.

“We are actively building on the momentum we have created in San Francisco, with the addition of experienced lawyers from top firms whose backgrounds complement our core strengths and enhance our offerings,” Paul Churchill, managing member of Mintz Levin’s San Francisco office, said in the statement.

Mintz Levin has 500 lawyers in eight offices in the U.S. and London.

L’Estrange Joins Jones Day in Sydney as Global Disputes Partner

Jones Day announced that corporate governance and commercial disputes lawyer Tim L’Estrange has joined the firm in Sydney as a partner in its global disputes practice.

Previously, L’Estrange was general counsel at ANZ Bank. He worked there for 10 years and held senior local and overseas positions in Europe and the U.S., and as managing director, based in London. He previously led the litigation group at Allens Arthur Robinson.

L’Estrange has experience in strategic litigation and corporate governance issues.

Jones Day has more than 2,400 lawyers in 36 offices worldwide.

Steptoe Adds Environment and Life Sciences Team in Brussels

Steptoe & Johnson LLP added Ruxandra Cana as a partner in the firm’s Brussels office. She will be joined by a life sciences and competition lawyer and a senior adviser. All three previously practiced at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.

The team brings experience in European Union regulatory work, with a strong emphasis on chemicals, cosmetics, medical devices, consumer products such as electronics, food contact materials and nanotechnology, according to a firm statement.

Cana has counseled multinational companies and industry associations on EU regulatory compliance and consortia formation and she has litigated on chemicals regulation-related issues extensively before European courts, the firm said.

Steptoe has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in nine offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Ogletree Deakins Adds Shareholder Sean Nalty in California

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC added Sean Nalty as a shareholder in its San Francisco office. Nalty joins the firm from Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, where he was a partner.

Nalty focuses his litigation practice on life, health and disability insurance-based employee benefits matters with emphasis on Employee Retirement Income Security Act and non-ERISA bad faith actions, the firm said in a statement.

Ogletree Deakins has more than 650 lawyers at 43 offices in the U.S. and in Europe.


Swipe-Fee Judge Asked to Approve Accord, $747 Million Costs

Lawyers for plaintiffs in a Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. antitrust case over interchange fees asked for final approval of a settlement along with $720 million in legal fees and $27 million in expenses.

The attorneys, representing a class of more than 7 million merchants, filed papers April 11 in Brooklyn, New York, seeking a final blessing for the accord from U.S. District Judge John Gleeson.

The settlement, estimated to be the largest ever in an antitrust case, would provide for about $7.25 billion in cash payouts, according to a memorandum filed by Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, one of the lead law firms in the case.

“With the largest-ever cash relief in an antitrust class action settlement plus unprecedented rules changes that would enable merchants to recover their costs of credit card acceptance” the settlement “is far more than ‘fair, adequate, and reasonable,’” the lawyers wrote.

In a separate filing, the lawyers said their request for attorney fees is reasonable given the complexity of the issues and the duration of the eight-year case.

“The settlement will affect as great a segment of the United States economy as any previous antitrust class action,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in the filing, adding that about 60 law firms worked on the case. “Such an extraordinary settlement could result only from a similarly extraordinary effort by class counsel and their co-counsel.”

Merchant trade groups and some large retailers including Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. spoke out against the accord, claiming it isn’t large enough and gives card companies too much leeway to raise fees in the future.

The lawsuit alleged the card companies and some of the country’s largest banks conspired to fix prices of fees paid by merchants when customers pay with plastic.

A hearing on final approval is scheduled for September.

The case is In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, 05-md-01720, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).


Rothstein Judge Rejects Materials on Plan to Repay Victims

A plan to repay victims of the $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme run by disbarred Florida attorney Scott Rothstein is on hold after a judge rejected disclosure materials explaining the proposal.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Raymond B. Ray, who is overseeing the liquidation of Rothstein’s law firm in Fort Lauderdale, on April 12 ordered a hearing on a motion to end the Chapter 11 case and appoint a new trustee under Chapter 7.

Several groups of investors oppose the plan by current trustee Herbert Stettin, which included a settlement with Toronto-Dominion Bank. The plan would bar investors from suing TD Bank and halt pending state-court lawsuits against the bank.

Ray ordered Stettin to present the so-called bar order for a separate review. Any amended disclosure statement can’t say Rothstein’s victims will be paid in full, Ray said.

“This plan is not going forward,” Charles Throckmorton, an attorney representing Rothstein victims who opposed the plan, said in an interview. “If they continue to try to get this bar order that we believe is unlawful and improper, they have to get that approved or denied on its merits.”

Stettin’s attorney, Paul Singerman, said Ray’s ruling didn’t mean the bar order was dead. He questioned the victims’ insistence on pushing to convert the case to Chapter 7.

“To the extent that the very same parties who are expressing a great concern about the expense of litigation want to spend money to try that issue in the view of the performance of this trustee, that will be their call,” Singerman said in an interview. “The trustee litigation is retaliatory and strategic.”

Stettin’s plan included a provision for TD Bank, Canada’s second-largest lender, to pay as much as $72 million to remove the threat of litigation over claims it aided Rothstein’s fraud. Rothstein is serving 50 years in prison.

TD Bank, based in Toronto, previously reached settlements requiring it to pay $263.7 million to investors, and lost a $67 million verdict in the only case to go to trial.

Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme, the largest in Florida history, was run from his Fort Lauderdale law firm and involved wealthy investors buying stakes in what he said were payouts in confidential sexual-harassment and workplace-bias cases.

The bankruptcy case is In re Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, 09-bk-34791, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale). The criminal case is U.S. v. Rothstein, 12-cr-60204, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).

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