MoFo Turns to Tokyo for Department Heads: Business of Law

Morrison & Foerster LLP announced leadership changes, appointing San Francisco partner Brandon Parris and Tokyo partner Randy Laxer as co-chairmen of the corporate department and New York partner Gary Lee and Tokyo partner Dale Caldwell to lead the finance group.

“It’s no accident that both departments are co-led by partners in Asia given how vitally important the region is to our clients and to our firm’s strategic growth,” Chairman Larren M. Nashelsky said in a statement. “Our recent opening of the Singapore office, our fifth in Asia, signals our commitment to advancing the interests of our many global clients doing significant business in the region.”

Parris, who represents public companies in mergers, securities offerings and joint ventures, was part of the team representing Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. in its agreement to acquire a 70 percent stake in Sprint Nextel Corp. for $43.5 billion, and the team advising Novellus Systems Inc. in its $3.3 billion stock-for-stock merger with Lam Research Corp.

Laxer, who focuses on complex cross-border mergers, private equity, strategic alliances and joint ventures, represented ON Semiconductor Corp. in its acquisition of Sanyo Semiconductor Co. and Taisho Pharmaceutical in its takeover of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Indonesia manufacturing and distribution unit.

Lee, who has been firmwide chairman of MoFo’s restructuring and insolvency group, advises stakeholders in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. He represented two Icelandic banks in restructurings after the financial crisis, and he leads MoFo’s representation of mortgage lender Residential Capital LLC, which was the largest Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. in 2012, the firm said.

Caldwell representing lenders, sponsors and contractors in the development, financing and acquisition of large infrastructure projects globally, the firm said. He acted for the sponsors in developing and financing the Caserones Mining Project in Chile and led the MoFo finance team in advising SoftBank in the Sprint Nextel deal.

The new leaders take over from San Francisco partner Susan Mac Cormac and Singapore partner Eric Piesner, who led the departments from 2010 to 2013. Piesner was named MoFo’s managing partner for Asia and head of its Singapore office, which opened in January. Mac Cormac, who founded the firm’s renewable energy and cleantech practice, will be co-chairwoman of MoFo’s emerging and growth companies practice. Pamela Reed, former MoFo firmwide managing partner, has been named vice chairwoman for both departments.

MoFo has more than 1,000 lawyers at 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.


Collapse of Washington’s Howrey Burst $1,000-an-Hour Bill Bubble

Since assuming the top spot at Howrey in 2000, Robert Ruyak, the dapper chairman of a litigation powerhouse called Howrey LLP, had more than doubled the firm’s size to 750 attorneys. He completed a merger with a Houston-based intellectual-property partnership and acquired firms or opened offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Munich and Paris, Bloomberg’s Paul M. Barrett writes in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Even with the economy deteriorating in late 2008, he hired 40 attorneys from a faltering bicoastal firm called Thelen LLP, known for representing construction companies. In July 2009, Howrey expanded its reach into high tech by acquiring a boutique partnership in Silicon Valley. With average per-partner profits of $1.3 million, a firm record, Ruyak’s creation was a countercyclical juggernaut.

Eighteen months later, Howrey collapsed.

The firm specialized in grind-them-into-dust antitrust litigation, with a sideline in patent and trademark disputes. It introduced an admired high-intensity training program for young attorneys. It invested in a support-services operation with offices in suburban Virginia intended to save clients money on labor-intensive document review.

A judicially appointed trustee is suing some former partners to claw back fees from former Howrey clients they took to new gigs. In what amounted to an autopsy report filed on March 11, the trustee, Allan Diamond, explained that Howrey’s demise was well under way by the time of the Ritz-Carlton fete on October 2009.

The firm, Diamond wrote, hurtled “from boom to bankruptcy in less than three years,” or about the time it takes to complete a law degree.

Ruyak, who declined to comment for this story, has landed at the Washington office of Chicago-based Winston & Strawn LLP. The furniture and fittings from Howrey’s former Pennsylvania Avenue offices have been auctioned, as has an art collection that included an Andy Warhol print of John Wayne.

Howrey is just one casualty of the contagion spreading through Big Law. In a new book, “The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis,” Steven Harper, a recently retired partner of Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis LLP, ascribes the shakeout to self-inflicted mistakes ranging from growth for growth’s sake to incompetent leadership.

The most spectacular collapse was that of New York-based Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP last year. Other large partnerships that have expired in the past dozen years include Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP; Heller Ehrman LLP; Jenkens & Gilchrist; Coudert Brothers LLP; Brobeck Phleger & Harrison LLP; and Arter & Hadden LLP.

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Ex-Dewey Chairman’s Settlement With Firm Erased After Six Years

Steven Davis, the former chairman of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP who agreed to pay the bankrupt law firm $511,000 in return for a waiver of claims against him, will have any outstanding balance forgiven by 2019, the American Lawyer magazine reported.

The settlement agreement is scheduled to be approved at a May 13 hearing at which Dewey insurer XL Specialty Insurance Co., which agreed to contribute $19 million to the estate, will also be considered.

Davis will begin paying the settlement next year with a minimum of 8 percent of his earnings over the next six years, according to the magazine. He’s unemployed and would be required to make $6 million over the next six years in order to pay the $511,000, the American Lawyer said.

Dewey’s liquidating Chapter 11 plan was approved by the bankruptcy court in February and implemented in March. The firm, which once had 1,300 lawyers, estimated that midpoint recoveries for secured and unsecured creditors under the plan would be 58.4 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively.

The liquidation began under Chapter 11 in May 2012. At the outset of bankruptcy, there was secured debt of about $225 million and accounts receivable of $217.4 million, the firm has said. The petition listed assets of $193 million and liabilities of $245.4 million.

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


Munger Tolles’ Todd Advises Berkshire on $2.05 Billion Purchase

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP partner Mary Ann Todd  advised Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in its $2.05 billion bid for the 20 percent of IMC International Metalworking Cos. it doesn’t already own as Chairman Warren Buffett expands his bet on the Israeli manufacturer.

Advising IMC is a team from Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz’s led by corporate partner Adam O. Emmerich that also includes tax partner Jodi J. Schwartz.

IMC, known as Iscar, makes cutting gear for industries including aerospace and auto manufacturing. Jacob Harpaz will remain chief executive officer of Tefen, Israel-based IMC, the companies said yesterday in a statement.

Buffett has structured deals to buy Marmon Holdings and IMC to allow the selling families to retain a stake in the companies they built. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire can then increase its ownership with the price based on the results after the initial deal. He said in 2006 that he bought 80 percent of Iscar in a transaction that valued the company at $5 billion.

Iscar had 11,933 employees at the end of last year, compared with 6,518 six years earlier, according to Berkshire’s annual reports. The company has been bolstering operations in Asia, including at its Tungaloy unit in Japan. Iscar has also invested in TaeguTec Ltd., a cutting-tools maker based in South Korea.

Eitan Wertheimer, who sold the company to Berkshire in 2006, has described himself as Buffett’s “travel agent” and accompanied the billionaire on meetings with business owners in Asia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain as Berkshire hunts for acquisitions. Wachtell Lipton also represents the Wertheimer family.

Berkshire “fully appreciates the unique nature of the global Israeli enterprise that we have created, and that is committed to remaining true to that heritage,” Wertheimer said.

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Kaye Scholer Hires New York Appeals Judge James Catterson

James Catterson, a New York appeals court judge, has joined Kaye Scholer LLP’s complex commercial litigation department as special counsel.

Catterson spent nine years as an associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, where he was involved in more than 6,000 civil and criminal appeals. He wrote more than 250 signed opinions and dissents, the firm said in a statement.

“Jim authored hundreds of judicial opinions on virtually every aspect of New York law, particularly complex commercial matters,” James Herschlein, co-chairman of Kaye Scholer’s complex commercial litigation department, said in the statement. “His energy and wealth of experience as both a judge and a litigator will be of great benefit to Kaye Scholer’s clients.”

Before his election to the court, Catterson was deputy county attorney for New York’s Suffolk County, on Long Island. He also was chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.

Kaye Scholer has 450 lawyers in nine U.S. and international offices.

Edwards Wildman Hires Troutman Corporate Partner in New York

Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP added partner Howard H. Jiang and another lawyer to its business law department in New York. Before joining Edwards Wildman, the lawyers were at Troutman Sanders LLP.

Jiang represents clients in mergers and acquisitions and securities work in domestic and cross-border transactions. He has advised companies in the acquisition and sale of equity interests and assets, strategic alliances, joint ventures, and special arrangements, the firm said in a statement.

He has expertise in advising U.S. and foreign companies on investment projects in Asia, especially China, as well as in counseling companies from the Asia-Pacific region on their investments in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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

Clifford Chance Adds Asset Finance Partner in New York

Clifford Chance LLP announced that Emily DiStefano, formerly of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, joined the firm as an asset finance partner in New York.

DiStefano has experience in aircraft finance, including secured lending, leasing, private-equity investments and restructuring of transactions, the firm said in a statement. She advises U.S. airlines on public and private Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates and has expertise in leveraged finance.

Clifford Chance has 3,400 legal advisers at 35 offices in 25 countries around the world.

Jones Day Adds Litigation Partner Chaka Patterson in Chicago

Chaka Patterson, formerly of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, joined Jones Day’s Chicago office as a partner in the business and tort litigation practice.

Patterson has experience as a trial and appellate lawyer. He represents clients in government investigations and litigation, including state attorney general matters and False Claims Act matters, the firm said.

Patterson also worked at public utility holding company Exelon Corp. as associate general counsel and treasurer.

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


Bernard Madoff’s Brokerage Cost $774.8 Million to Liquidate

Liquidating Bernard L. Madoff’s defunct brokerage has cost $774.8 million, including lawyers’ and consultants’ fees and expenses of $737.1 million, the trustee for the firm said in a report.

The trustee, Irving H. Picard, who has been liquidating the firm since Madoff’s December 2008 arrest, has paid customers about $4.6 billion, out of as much as $20 billion he says they lost in the Ponzi scheme. Another $802 million went to customers from the Securities Investor Protection Corp., which spent almost as much picking up the lawyers’ and consultants’ bills, according to the report filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

Picard, a bankruptcy lawyer whose firm Baker Hostetler LLP has billed SIPC for $440 million, files twice-yearly reports on his progress. Most of the money he has raised in more than four years has come from settlements with investors whom he accused of profiting from the fraud.

He has been less successful in his pursuit of banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG, HSBC Holdings Plc and UniCredit SpA. Picard is appealing court rulings that barred him from demanding a total of about $30 billion from those banks on behalf of Madoff customers.

The Madoff estate holds $4.4 billion of Treasury securities and $173.7 million in cash, Picard said in the report. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to running the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

The Madoff liquidation case is Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities Inc., 08-bk-01789, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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