Baker Botts, Gibson Dunn, Davis Polk: Business of Law

A team of 14 lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, including eight transactional and dispute partners, joined Baker Botts LLP’s offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Those moving yesterday include John Lonsberg, who was Fulbright & Jaworski’s partner in charge of the Middle East practice and who established the firm’s presence in the region when he joined Fulbright in 2005. Also joining Baker Botts are partners Mark Bisch, Jonathan Sutcliffe, Joseph Colagiovanni, Hassan Elsayed, Richard Devine and Philip Punwar in Dubai, and Sam Eversman in Riyadh.

“This team -- considered ‘go-to’ choices for any business requiring legal counsel in the Middle East -- has extensive experience in the region over a wide range of industry segments and practice areas that goes back for more than 30 years,” Baker Botts managing partner Andrew Baker said in a statement.

The lawyers joining Baker Botts focus primarily on corporate and commercial transactions, regulatory and compliance, project finance, international arbitration and dispute-resolution, and local law. They also handle antibribery and corporate compliance and internal investigations matters, the firm said.

Baker Botts now has 40 lawyers in its Middle East offices. The firm formed an alliance with the International Legal Group in Kuwait this year, adding to its regional capacity.

U.K firm Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski LLP officially combined in June creating a 3,800 lawyer firm. The firm has about 50 Middle East-based lawyers, according to a firm spokesman.

“While our combined firms are highly complementary, any combination of organizations brings inevitable changes in leadership and responsibilities and some overlap, and we understand that not all individuals will embrace those changes,” Kenneth Stewart, managing partner of Norton Rose Fulbright’s U.S. member firm said in a statement. “We wish our former partners in the Middle East our best.”

Since the combination, Norton Rose has also seen some defections in Los Angeles. Last month, Pepper Hamilton LLP hired health-care partner Mark A. Kadzielski, who had headed the firm’s West Coast health law practice, along with four other lawyers.

This month, Winston & Strawn LLP added three partners and three other attorneys, including Marcus A. Torrano, who was formerly the head of Norton Rose’s Los Angeles labor-and-employment practice.

Baker Botts has more than 700 lawyers in 14 offices in the U.S., Europe, China and the Middle East.


SEC Enforcement Unit’s Lench Leaves Agency After 23 Years

Kenneth Lench, chief of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement unit that built cases against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., is stepping down after more than 23 years at the agency.

Lench, who led investigations related to subprime-mortgage products that fueled the 2008 credit crisis, will leave the SEC for private industry at the end of this month, the agency said yesterday in a statement. Cases Lench handled yielded about $1.7 billion in recovery for harmed investors, the SEC said.

“Ken’s determination to always seek the right answers and his devotion to protecting investors by working tirelessly with his staff and colleagues made everyone around him better,” George Canellos, co-director of the SEC enforcement unit, said in the statement. “The enforcement division is stronger today because of Ken’s unwavering leadership.”

Lench was tapped to head the structured and new financial products unit in 2010, when it was formed in then-enforcement director Robert Khuzami’s overhaul of the division. The group led the highest-profile cases stemming from the mortgage-market collapse that brought down Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and forced taxpayer bailouts for the biggest U.S. banks.

Reid Muoio, Lench’s deputy, will lead the structured products unit until a new chief is named, the SEC said.


Gibson Dunn Advises Bally on $1.3 Billion SHFL Gaming Deal

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is advising Bally Technologies Inc., which agreed to buy SHFL Entertainment Inc. for about $1.3 billion in a deal that combines two complementary gambling-technology companies. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is advising SHFL.

Gibson Dunn’s team is led by Los Angeles corporate partner Jeffrey Le Sage and includes corporate partner Candice Choh, finance partner Cromwell Montgomery, benefits partner Sean Feller, antitrust partner John Herfort, antitrust partner Adam Di Vincenzo, and tax partner Dora Arash.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP acted as counsel to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., financial adviser to Bally on the deal, with a team led by corporate partner Philip Richter.

The Skadden team included partners Howard Ellin and Richard Witzel, mergers and acquisitions; David Rievman, tax; Stephanie Teicher, banking; Bruce Goldner, intellectual property and technology; Regina Olshan, executive compensation and benefits; Clifford Aronson, antitrust; and Maura Barry Grinalds, litigation.

The offer of $23.25 a share is 24 percent higher than SHFL’s closing price July 15. The transaction was unanimously approved by both boards, the Las Vegas-based companies said yesterday in a statement.

Bally, whose products include slot machines and lottery systems, will get access to key markets including Australia and strengthen its offering in Asia. Adding SHFL will also help Bally provide its customers with a suite of gambling products for the entire casino floor.

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Firm News

Akin Gump Will Shift Firm Structure to All-Capital Partnership

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP said it will change to an all-capital partnership structure in January 2014.

“Following multiple discussions with partners throughout the firm and a thorough evaluation of standard industry practices, we concluded that it is beneficial for all partners to have a stake in the firm’s success,” Akin Gump Chairwoman Kim Koopersmith said in a statement yesterday. “This shift will also help further strengthen the firm’s financial position in both the short term and long term.”

All partners, including income partners, will contribute capital on a graduated basis. The shift will give the firm “a multitiered compensation system that is a combination of guaranteed and variable compensation, with gradually increasing degrees of ownership,” according to the statement.

Akin Gump has more than 850 lawyers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


Former Davis Polk Partner Named GC at NBCUniversal

Former Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP litigation partner Kimberley D. Harris was named as general counsel at NBCUniversal, the company said in a statement.

Harris succeeds Rick Cotton, who has held the position since 2004. Cotton will take over the post of senior counselor for IP protection, working on antipiracy matters at NBCUniversal and parent Comcast Corp.

Her appointment is effective Sept. 3. She will report to Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBCUniversal.

In her new position, Harris will provide legal advice to the NBCUniversal senior management team and supervise the law department, which handles legal matters for the company’s film studio, two broadcast networks, 18 cable channels, digital sites and theme-park operations, the company said. She will also coordinate its global regulatory and legislative agenda.

At Davis Polk, Harris handled investigations by the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress, the company said. From 2010 to 2012, she worked in the White House Counsel’s Office, most recently as deputy counsel and deputy assistant to the president.

BuckleySandler Hires Two Litigators to Open Chicago Office

BuckleySandler LLP announced that class-action defense litigator Richard E. Gottlieb, former head of Dykema Gossett PLLC’s financial industry group and chairman of the firm’s national consumer financial services practice, has joined the firm as a partner. Fredrick S. Levin, a class-action and securities litigator will also be joining as a partner from Dykema, along with an associate.

Gottlieb and Levin will work out of BuckleySandler’s Los Angeles and soon-to-be-opened Chicago office, the firm said.

“Richard and I have worked together on client matters for almost 20 years.” Andrew L. Sandler, chairman and executive partner of BuckleySandler, said in a statement. “He is one of the country’s most accomplished class-action litigators serving banks, mortgage companies and other consumer financial services firms, and we are fortunate to have him join our team,”

Gottlieb has experience primarily in the defense of class actions alleging false or deceptive lending practices and statutory consumer lending violations. He also has experience in arbitrations, regulatory matters and administrative proceedings.

Levin’s practice has focused on defending financial institutions in consumer and securities class-action litigation.

BuckleySandler has almost 150 lawyers in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Orange County, California.

Asia Pacific Attorney Shao-Ying Mautner Joins Foley in Shanghai

Shao-Ying Mautner joined Foley & Lardner LLP as a partner and chief representative of the firm’s Shanghai office and a member of the firm’s transactional and securities and China practices.

Mautner joined Foley from a Hong Kong-based legal consulting firm that she founded in 2010. In that role, she advised clients on business operations in China, managed major transactional and litigation matters and often acted as interim general counsel for clients, the firm said.

Mautner specializes in advising multinational companies on mergers, acquisitions and other major transactional and complex litigation matters in China. She also provides legal support to clients’ day-to-day operations in China, including business structuring, distribution strategy, manufacturing and supply-chain activities, and other matters, according to the firm.

“Shao-Ying has a well-earned reputation as a top general counsel in the region, and her wealth of hands-on experience in the China business market is a perfect addition to our talented team,” said Richard Florsheim, chairman of Foley’s China practice.

Foley & Lardner has approximately 900 attorneys in 21 offices in the U.S., Brussels and Asia.

Katten Brings on Leading Corporate Attorney Claudia Allen

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP announced that corporate attorney Claudia H. Allen has joined the firm as partner in Chicago and co-chair of the corporate governance practice, along with firm partner Herb Wander. She formerly headed the corporate governance practice at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.

Allen counsels directors, board committees, management and shareholders on emerging governance issues, effective governance practices and fiduciary duties, as well as compliance with the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley Acts and related rules and stock exchange listing standards.

Katten has more than 600 attorneys in the U.S. and in London and Shanghai.

Duane Morris Boston Office Adds Corporate Partner Lourie

Duane Morris LLP announced that corporate lawyer Jonathan Lourie has joined the firm as a partner in its Boston office. He was previously at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP.

Lourie’s practice focuses on technology-based companies. He has experience in licensing, joint ventures and collaborations in the field of life sciences. Lourie also advises companies and people on technology transfers, venture capital transactions, mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy acquisitions, specialized lending, international law and securities law, the firm said.

Duane Morris has more than 700 attorneys in 24 offices in the U.S., London and Asia.

Corporate and Tax Partner Joins Burr & Forman in Atlanta

Burr & Forman LLP announced that Chester J. Hosch has joined the firm as an Atlanta-based partner in the corporate and tax practice group. Hosch previously worked as a partner at Schreeder, Wheeler & Flint LLP.

Hosch has experience in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and taxation. He represents clients involved in health care, manufacturing and technology in commercial transactions, securities matters and financings, the firm said. He also has assisted clients in material acquisitions and divestitures and in supervising reporting with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Burr & Forman has almost 300 attorneys and nine U.S. offices.


Porn Copyright Trolls Receive Punitive Sanctions

Morgan Pietz, a Los Angeles copyright lawyer, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about fighting Chicago-based Prenda Law Inc. in federal court for its abusive copyright infringement litigation tactics.

Since 2010, Prenda Law, under various names, has initiated hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits, accusing defendants of unauthorized downloading of adult films copyrighted by the law firm.

In May 2013, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright issued punitive sanctions against Prenda Law under the court’s inherent supervisory authority.

Pietz, in this “Rainmakers” episode, also discusses the court’s rationale for sanctioning the copyright-trolling group of lawyers.

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