Vinson & Elkins, Ashurst, Paul Hastings: Business of Law

Vinson & Elkins LLP is closing its Shanghai office later this year and will consolidate the China practice in its existing Beijing and Hong Kong offices, according to a firm memo by Chairman Mark Kelly.

“Given our firm’s historic ties to the energy industry, concentrating more of our mainland Chinese resources in Beijing, where many of our energy clients are based, allows us to more effectively serve those clients,” Kelly wrote in the memo. “In addition, we believe that our enhanced capabilities in Beijing and Hong Kong will benefit our clients across the greater China region.”

Three of the firm’s 13 lawyers listed as resident in the Shanghai office on the firm’s website are partners, including Jay T. Kolb, who is the managing partner of both the Shanghai and Beijing offices.

A firm spokeswoman declined to answer questions about what specifically prompted the closing and whether any lawyers will lose their jobs. The firm will provide opportunities to attorneys and staff to remain with the firm in the region “where possible,” according to the memo.

The firm has a third office in Asia, in Tokyo, which will remain open.

Paula Deen Hires Morgan Lewis Partner Grace Speights

Celebrity chef Paula Deen, who is facing a lawsuit over sexual harassment and a hostile work environment claims at a restaurant she owns, hired Morgan Lewis & Brockius LLP to take over her legal team.

Her old law firm, Savannah, Georgia-based Oliver Maner LLP, was replaced with a team led by Morgan Lewis, the Associated Press reported on July 12.

Jen Costa, a Morgan Lewis spokeswoman, confirmed that the firm’s team will be led by labor and employment lawyer Grace E. Speights. Additional lawyers on the case include associates Jocelyn Cuttino and Alexis Thomas.

Deen became embroiled in controversy when she said in court documents made public at the end of June that she has used a derogatory term for black people.

Deen and brother Bubba Hiers are being sued by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of their restaurant in Savannah called Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House. Jackson says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment marked by innuendo and racial slurs.

Spreights is the managing partner of Morgan Lewis’s Washington office, chairwoman of the Systemic Employment Litigation Practice, and co-head of the firm’s Diversity Committee.

The Weiner, Shearhouse, Weitz, Greenberg & Shawe law firm in Savannah will also be advising Deen on the litigation, the Associated Press said.

Ashurst Announces Management Appointments and Plans

Ashurst Australia and Ashurst LLP announced management appointments and a global governance and management structure that will help integrate the combined firm.

Current managing partner James Collis will be appointed global managing partner and John Carrington, current Ashurst Australia managing partner will be managing partner Australia.

Ashurst partners will vote for candidates on Ashurst’s 14-member global board later in the year.

Brian Dunlop was named chief financial officer and Robert Gillespie and David Turner are the previously announced independent board members, the firm said in a statement.

The firm is also introducing a new global divisional structure along four business lines, each co-led by Ashurst LLP and Ashurst Australia partners.

The corporate, commercial and competition practice will be co-led by Sydney-based Phil Breden and London-based Stephen Lloyd.

The disputes, intellectual property and employment will be co-led by London-based Simon Bromwich and Sydney-based Lisa Ritson.

The energy, resources, real estate and infrastructure co-will be led by London-based Mark Elsey and Perth-based Geoff Gishubl.

Finance will be co-led by Sydney-based Paul Jenkins and Paris-based Laurent Mabilat.

“The management structure and team we have put in place reflects the ambition of the firm and gives us a strong global platform to achieve our strategy and vision for the merged firm,” Ashurst senior partner Charlie Geffen said. “Our new structure will ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible and will help us to deliver excellence in client service.”

London-based Ashurst and Australia’s Blake Dawson merged in March 2012, with Blake Dawson taking the name Ashurst Australia.


Houston Mergers and Acquisitions Partner Joins Paul Hastings

Paul Hastings LLP announced that Jimmy Vallee has joined the firm as a partner with the mergers and acquisitions practice in Houston. He was previously at Jones Day, where he was a partner.

“A key component of our global growth strategy is to build a strong and balanced energy-focused capital markets, finance, M&A, and master limited partnership practice in Houston,” Elizabeth Noe, chairwoman of the corporate practice at Paul Hastings said in a statement. “Jimmy’s extensive M&A and corporate finance practice focused on the energy industry provides a key element in completing the foundation for the Energy practice we are building in Houston and globally,” she added.

Vallee has experience representing clients in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and securities transactions, joint ventures, and corporate governance matters. His practice has a focus on domestic and international energy companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production, midstream, and oil field services industries.

He advised OGE Energy in connection with its $11 billion joint venture with CenterPoint Energy to create one of the largest master limited partnerships in the midstream industry. In addition, Vallee recently advised Jefferies LLC in connection with its role as financial adviser to Copano Energy in its $5 billion merger with Kinder Morgan.

The firm opened the Houston office in April with three transactional energy partners.

Paul Hastings has lawyers at 20 offices in Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Litigator Brian Melendez Joins Dykema in Minneapolis

Dykema Gossett PLLC announced that Brian Melendez joined the firm as a member of the litigation team in the Minneapolis office. He was previously at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

Melendez focuses his practice on business litigation, especially sophisticated commercial matters and consumer-finance litigation.

Dykema has lawyers in 13 U.S. offices.

Labor & Employment Partner Joins Barnes & Thornburg

Barnes & Thornburg LLP added to its national labor and employment law department with the hire of Indianapolis attorney Jeffery Mallamad. He previously headed the labor and employment practice group at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP. He defends employers against a variety of lawsuits filed in federal and state courts and administrative agencies. He counsels top executives on issues related to hiring packages, compensation, stock positions, benefits and severance. He also handles complex Occupational Safety and Health Administration matters involving serious work accidents, the firm said.

Barnes & Thornburg has more than 600 attorneys and other legal professionals at 12 U.S. offices.

Nelson Mullin Hires Tax Lawyer From Mayer Brown

Wells Hall joined Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP’s Charlotte, North Carolina, office. He will be a member of the the federal and state tax practice group and the multidisciplinary national health-care group. He was previously a partner in the tax transactions and consulting practice of Mayer Brown LLP.

Hall represents clients in transactional matters, such as mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations, private equity transactions, and estate and gift tax planning, the firm said. He also handles transactions involving pass-through entities, including merger and acquisition transactions when an S corporation or an LLC is the target.

Nelson Mullins has more than 470 attorneys and government relations professionals at its U.S. offices.


Allen & Overy to Lead Defense of Goldman Sachs’s ‘Fabulous Fab’

Fabrice Tourre, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. vice president whose congressional testimony put a face on the complex structured investments that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, is set to face trial today on allegations he misled investors.

Tourre, dubbed “Fabulous Fab” by a friend, faces fraud claims in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit over his role in Abacus 2007-AC1, a synthetic collateralized debt obligation tied to home mortgages. The trial comes three years to the day after the SEC announced Goldman Sachs’s agreement to pay a then-record $550 million settlement and admit mistakes in marketing Abacus.

Tourre will be defended by a team led by Allen & Overy LLP partner Pamela Chepiga, a former chief of the unit that prosecutes federal securities crimes in New York, and John P. “Sean” Coffey, another former federal prosecutor who spent more than a decade representing investors in securities-fraud suits against companies.

The SEC team includes the SEC’s chief litigator, Matthew Martens, as well as Richard Simpson, who represented the SEC against Sam Antar in the Crazy Eddie Inc. fraud case, and Christian Schultz, a former partner with the firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Jurors will want to know whether Tourre intentionally misled customers, said Ernest Badway, a former SEC enforcement attorney with the Philadelphia-based law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. “They’re going to look to see if he said something that he knew to be untrue,” Badway said.

Tourre’s legal team has lost several pretrial motions, complicating his defense.

In rulings last month, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest barred one of Tourre’s two expert witnesses from testifying and sharply limited the testimony of the other. She also said Tourre can’t place “undue focus” on lawyers having reviewed the transaction, while ruling he may try to show jurors he wasn’t the person primarily responsible for the transaction.

Forrest rejected Tourre’s request to throw out part of the case on the claim that sales offers made to two European banks, IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG and ABN Amro Bank NV, weren’t “domestic” for purposes of U.S. securities law. A different judge in 2011 dismissed part of the SEC’s case against Tourre, throwing out claims relating to foreign sales.

“The issues headed to trial are far simpler and more easily explained to a jury” than before Forrest’s ruling, said Behzad Gohari, a securities lawyer in Bethesda, Maryland, who advises clients on capital markets and financial regulations.

The case is SEC v. Tourre, 10-03229, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Ex-SAC Manager Steinberg Seeks Jury Probing After ‘Media Storm’

A lawyer for former SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager Michael Steinberg told a federal judge that the “media storm” of coverage about his case and founder Steven A. Cohen may hurt his chances of getting a fair trial.

Lawyer Barry Berke, of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, on July 12 asked U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan to use a questionnaire and closely question potential jurors about media accounts and publicity surrounding the case when a jury is selected for Steinberg’s insider-trading trial, set to begin in November.

Berke said that hundreds of articles have been written about his client’s case, which is far different from the related insider-trading trial of Level Global Investors LP co-founder Anthony Chiasson and his co-defendant, former Diamondback Capital Management LLC fund manager Todd Newman, who were convicted of insider trading in December.

“I do think the press is different from the Chiasson trial,” Berke told the judge. “There has been a lot of extraneous information that has been written about this case, SAC, Steve Cohen, SAC people who’ve pleaded guilty and other rumors.”

The case is U.S. v. Steinberg, 12-cr-00121, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more, click here.

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