SEC, Mitchell Silberberg, Seyfarth: Business of Law

Amelia Cottrell, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigator who helped build an insider-trading case against a unit of billionaire Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP, was promoted to a top enforcement position in the agency’s New York office.

Cottrell, 39, will help supervise a staff of about 180 attorneys, investigators, accountants and paralegals as associate director of the office, the SEC said in a statement June 14. She has been part of an enforcement unit specializing in unearthing market abuse that was formed in 2010.

Since joining the SEC in 2005, Cottrell has worked on high-profile cases, including the investigation of SAC Capital unit CR Intrinsic Investors LLC that resulted in a record $616 million settlement in March, the SEC said. She also helped reach a $25 million settlement with U.K.-based ICAP Plc over claims the brokerage displayed fake trades and misled customers.

Before joining the SEC, Cottrell worked for five years at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and two years at Jones Day, the SEC said.

Law Firm News

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Goodwin Procter LLP, Jenner & Block LLP, K&L Gates LLP, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP were among the 42 law firms recognized by the Women in Law Empowerment Forum for the numbers of women who are partners and firm leaders.

The group last week named firms “that have integrated women into the highest leadership positions,” according to a statement. To be considered for certification, firms must have more than 200 or more attorneys in the U.S. and meet four of six criteria, such as women comprising 20 percent of equity partners and 10 percent of chairs and managing partners.

“I am pleasantly surprised at the number of firms that are among those who certified as of June 1,” WILEF National Chair and co-founder Elizabeth Anne Tursi said. “The firms who certified stand above all others in their commitment to helping women achieve the highest levels of management, leadership and compensation.”

To see the full list of firms, click here.


Mitchell Silberberg Adds Entertainment Lawyer in New York

Carol M. Kaplan has joined Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP as a partner in the firm’s New York office.

Kaplan was formerly counsel in the entertainment department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York.

“Carol’s experience, running the gamut from legitimate theater, film and TV to new media and book publishing, adds important depth in key New York media and fits well with our already formidable entertainment and music industry practice here,” said Jane Stevens, the managing partner of MS&K’s New

Kaplan’s roster of theater clients includes first-time and established commercial producers developing and producing new works including major and mini-major studios; content owners licensing rights in proprietary materials including logos, trademarks and franchise properties for exploitation in the live-stage industry; and playwrights, performers, directors, designers and established and first-time Broadway investors.

In the film and television field, Kaplan represents independent film and documentary producers, directors, screenwriters and financiers, and has handled talent deals for news anchors, chefs and other personalities. In addition, she has represented licensees of series broadcast rights in other territories. In the print industry, she has represented individual authors in book publishing deals with major as well as independent presses.

As part of her entertainment practice, Kaplan also advises not-for-profit theaters on general production, financing and governance matters and has also counseled educational institutions and foundations in connection with numerous transactional and intellectual property matters.

At MTV Networks, Kaplan served as senior counsel, Nickelodeon business and legal affairs, from 2004 to 2006. In that capacity, she negotiated agreements and advised the internal client group in connection with development and production contracts for Nickelodeon branded content.

The firm, with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, opened its New York office in 2008.

Seyfarth Expands Real Estate Team With San Francisco Partner

James O’Brien has joined Seyfarth Shaw LLP as a partner in the firm’s San Francisco office. O’Brien, a real estate attorney, joins Seyfarth from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

O’Brien’s practice focuses on representing investment funds and other institutional investors in connection with real estate acquisitions and dispositions, real estate financing, leasing transactions and joint venture formation. He has worked on transactions involving commercial and residential real property, including development property, office buildings, hotels, resorts, multifamily projects and mixed-use projects. O’Brien previously practiced in both New York and London and has been living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last seven years.

“James has a reputation as a real estate attorney who practices at the highest level,” said Nick Geannacopulos, Seyfarth’s San Francisco office managing partner. “His presence furthers diversifies our national real estate department’s on-the-ground skill set in the Bay Area and adds to our roster of more than 70 attorneys across all practices in San Francisco.”

Rimon PC Adds Litigator in Its San Francisco Office

Litigator Richard Mooney, who works on complex domestic and international business disputes, has joined the San Francisco office of Rimon PC as a partner. Mooney joins Rimon from Bryan Cave LLP, where he was also a partner.

Mooney’s practice includes an emphasis on antitrust and competition matters and transnational disputes. He has represented both domestic and foreign individuals and corporations of all sizes in state, federal trial and appellate courts and arbitration proceedings.

“We are excited to have Richard on our team. He bolsters our strong team of litigators with his deep experience in international dispute and antitrust work, as well as augmenting our intellectual property litigation practice,” Rimon Chief Executive Officer Michael Moradzadeh said in a statement.

Dechert Expands Its Corporate Practice in Paris

Matthieu Grollemund is joining Dechert LLP as a corporate partner in the firm’s Paris office. Grollemund was most recently a partner at Orrick Herrington & Suttcliffe LLP.

Helene Parent, an associate, is also joining along with Grollemund from Orrick.

“We are thrilled to join Dechert, a firm whose corporate and, more specifically, private equity capacities, are globally recognized for their excellence, including their strong New York and London platforms. We are also very excited about the cross-selling opportunities offered by Dechert’s leading fund formation practice which is known to many of our clients,” Grollemund said in a statement.

Grollemund advises private equity firms and hedge funds. He has also worked on a range of special situations and domestic and cross-border insolvency matters for French and international debtors or creditors.

Litigation News

BofA Gave $500 Bonuses to Foreclose on Clients, Lawsuit Claims

Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. lender, rewarded staff with cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to sending distressed homeowners into foreclosure, former employees said in court documents.

Mortgage workers falsified records and were told to delay U.S. loan-assistance applications by requesting paperwork that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had already received, according to statements from ex-employees filed last week in federal court in Boston. The lender improperly disqualified applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, according to a May 23 statement from Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation specialist who left the company in 2012.

“We were regularly drilled that it was our job to maximize fees for the bank by fostering and extending delay of the HAMP modification process by any means we could,” Gordon said. Managers instructed staff to “delay modifications by telling homeowners who called in that their documents were ‘under review,’ when in fact, there had been no review,” she said. The bank has denied the plaintiffs’ allegations.

Bank of America, which has spent more than $45 billion to settle claims tied to its 2008 takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp., is being sued by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after making payments under trial programs, according to court papers. Statements from seven former loan employees were included in a filing last week as part of plaintiffs’ attempt to gain class-action status.

Bank of America has helped the most homeowners under HAMP and is committed to assisting customers at risk of foreclosure, Rick Simon, a company spokesman, said June 14 in an e-mail.

“At best, these attorneys are painting a false picture of the bank’s practices and the dedication of our employees,” Simon said. “While we will address the declarations in more depth when we file our opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion next month, suffice it to say that each of the declarations is rife with factual inaccuracies.”

The lender unsuccessfully tried to dismiss the complaint in 2011. U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ruled that the case could proceed while dismissing some claims.

Loan collectors who put at least 10 customers into foreclosure, including those who were in trial modifications, were given a $500 bonus, said Gordon, who worked at Bank of America for more than four years. Other rewards included gift cards for retailers including Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond, she said.

Bank of America was among five mortgage servicers that reached a $25 billion settlement last year with the U.S. and states to resolve claims of abusive foreclosure practices. The deal provided monetary relief to homeowners and establishes standards for servicing mortgages.

The case is In Re Bank of America Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) Contract Litigation, 10-md-02193, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

For more, click here.

Toyota Gets More Time to Win Approval of $1.1 Billion Pact

Toyota Motor Corp. and lawyers suing the company were given more time to win final approval of a $1.1 billion settlement of claims that recalls related to unintended acceleration hurt the value of U.S. customers’ vehicles.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna, after a hearing June 14 in Santa Ana, California, granted requests from attorneys for both sides to provide updated figures about how the money will be allocated to beneficiaries in the settlement. The judge scheduled a July 19 hearing for final approval.

“A lot of hard work has gone into this and it’s been a remarkable effort on the part of everyone,” said Selna, after attorneys for both sides said they will give financial details to overcome concerns the judge expressed about the disbursement of the settlement funds.

The company, based in Toyota City, Japan, recalled more than 10 million vehicles for problems related to unintended acceleration in 2009 and 2010, starting with a September 2009 announcement that it was recalling 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because of a defect that may cause floor mats to jam accelerator pedals. The company later recalled vehicles over defects involving the pedals themselves.

“The judge has put the matter on hold while we come back to him on the final payoff figures,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Berman. “It’s clear that he favors the settlement.”

Toyota attorney John P. Hooper agreed. “He’s sending out a message that he likes the settlement but wants to hear the figures,” said Hooper. “We’ve very pleased that the judge is giving us the opportunity to come back and provide him the figures that he wants.”

The settlement would resolve the economic-loss portion of the Toyota sudden-acceleration litigation. Class, or group, actions were filed on behalf of Toyota owners who said the company drove down their vehicles’ value by failing to disclose or fix defects.

The federal cases are combined as In re Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 8:10-ml-02151, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

For more, click here.


She Should Know: Former Partner Now Teaches Stress Management

Karen Krueger was once a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. She left the law, however, for three years of training to become a certified teacher of the “Alexander Technique,” a method of eliminating tension and stress. Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck interviewed Krueger about her transition from lawyer to a teacher of skills to manage stress, improve the efficiency and ease of movements and posture, and deal with chronic pain.

To see the interview, click here.