Orrick, Pillsbury in ‘Exploratory’ Talks: Business of Law

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP said they are in talks about merging the San Francisco-based law firms.

“Our firms are in exploratory discussions about a possible combination,” the law firms said Oct. 25 in a joint statement. “These talks are serving to confirm the great respect our firms have for each other.”

According to the American Lawyer, a trade publication, 977-lawyer Orrick had $866 million in gross revenue last year, making it the 27th-wealthiest firm in the country.

Pillsbury, with 609 lawyers and $561 million in gross revenue last year, was ranked 56th in terms of wealth, according to American Lawyer rankings.

The announcement is consistent with accelerating consolidation in the legal industry, said Kent Zimmermann, a Chicago-based legal consultant for Zeughauser Group LLC.

“It seems like everyone is talking,” Zimmermann said. “There are more firms now that are interested in pursuing a combination. Some firms do deals out of necessity because they’re weakening, and other firms do it to double down and become the best in their core areas of focus.”

U.S. law firms have entered 58 mergers so far this year, compared to 60 in all of 2012, according to legal consultant Altman Weil Inc.’s MergerLine.

Jaime E. Bruck, a Pillsbury spokeswoman, and Adi Weisman, an Orrick spokeswoman, declined to comment on the talks beyond the joint statement.

Orrick has 25 offices in North America, Europe and Asia, with more extensive coverage in Europe and Asia than Pillsbury, according to the firm’s website. Pillsbury has 15 offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Abu Dhabi, according to its website.

Patton Boggs Said in Merger Talks With Locke Lord, Reuters Says

Patton Boggs LLP is in talks to merge with a larger U.S. law firm, said to be Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell LLP, Reuters reported, citing two former Patton Boggs partners who left the firm earlier this year.

The former partners had knowledge of the merger talks from lawyers inside Washington-based Patton Boggs, Reuters said.

Separately, Patton Boggs, with more than 450 lawyers, is also in merger talks with an unidentified law firm outside the U.S., Reuters reported, citing the partners.

“All firms that recognize the rapidly changing landscape for the legal profession should be looking for ways to improve their platform for their partners and to better serve their clients, and Patton Boggs is no different,” the firm said in an e-mailed statement. “We are constantly evaluating ways to improve our platform and the way that we provide legal services. If we find a combination that accomplishes these goals, we would have an announcement if and when we pursue it.”

Locke Lord said it doesn’t comment on speculation about potential mergers.

“In line with our strategic plan, we regularly look at growth opportunities that would benefit our firm and our clients,” Locke Lord said in an e-mailed statement.

Patton Boggs, which is known for its lobbying and litigation and practices, hired earlier this month Locke Lord’s former partner and chair of the private-equity practice in the Dallas office Gina E. Betts. The firm has 10 offices in the U.S. and in the Middle East, according to its website.

Locke Lord is recognized for its litigation, insurance and reinsurance and energy practices. The firm has 13 offices including in Hong Kong and London, according to its website.

American Law Firm Herzfeld & Rubin Opens Office in Myanmar

Herzfeld & Rubin PC announced Oct. 25 that it opened a law office in Yangon, Myanmar, in July, staffed by American and Myanmar attorneys. It is named Herzfeld, Rubin, Meyer & Rose Law Firm LTD. The firm also plans to open a satellite office in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw.

Andrew Ngun Cung Lian, who was the deputy chief negotiator of the Chin National Front in its peace negotiations with the Myanmar government, will be managing director of the office and will lead a staff of five U.S. and Myanmar attorneys.

U Kyaw Hoe, a member of the National League for Democracy party’s Central Committee, heads HRMR’s litigation practice. He represents clients in contracts, real estate, labor and immigration law, as well as intellectual-property matters, the firm said.

“Herzfeld & Rubin’s attorneys have a rich history of helping develop legal frameworks in several emerging and frontier economies around the world, and our presence in Myanmar represents a substantial commitment to Southeast Asia,” Eric C. Rose, a principal of HRMR, said in a statement.

Based in New York, Herzfeld & Rubin has more than 200 attorneys there and four affiliated offices in the U.S., Europe and Israel, the firm said. The new office will be a full-service firm and will handle matters related to the emerging and frontier markets.

In September, Duane Morris LLP opened an office in Yangon as a branch of Duane Morris & Selvam LLP, a joint law venture the Philadelphia-based firm formed with Singapore-based Selvam LLC in 2010.

The foreign interest in Myanmar results from the European Union and other countries lifting most trade sanctions that were previously imposed on Myanmar. The country has implemented political and economic reforms under the leadership of President U Thein Sein. The country has abundant resources including natural gas, petroleum, timber, tin, zinc, copper, lead, coal, precious stones and fertile land, Herzfeld & Rubin said in their statement.

“The result of sweeping political and economic reform has ignited interest in Myanmar by American and other global investors -- including our clients,” Herzfeld & Rubin’s managing director, Ian Ceresney, said in a statement. “Their renewed focus in the region, and Southeast Asia generally, is the impetus behind our decision to establish a presence there.”


Bingham Adds to Latin America Capabilities in New York Office

Bingham McCutchen LLP added Juan Manuel Trujillo as a partner in the corporate practice in the New York office. He was previously at Arnold & Porter LLP.

Trujillo focuses on corporate and finance transactions in Latin America, as well as advising Latin American businesses and investors on U.S. and other non-Latin American transactions, the firm said. He is admitted to practice in Mexico and New York. He has advised clients on mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, investment transactions and a variety of financing and restructuring transactions.

“We expect Juan’s experience leading sophisticated transactions across a variety of industries will be valuable to Bingham’s global client base,” Kevin Sheridan, a New York-based partner and co-leader of Bingham’s corporate practice group, said in a statement.

Bingham has about 1,000 lawyers in 14 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Former Treasury Department Counsel Joins Stroock & Stroock

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP announced that Anne Salladin has joined the firm as special counsel in the national security/CFIUS/compliance practice group. Prior to joining the firm, Salladin spent almost 20 years in the Office of the assistant general counsel for international affairs of the U.S. Treasury Department.

As senior counsel she had responsibility for providing legal advice on CFIUS matters and participated in hundreds of CFIUS reviews and investigations, negotiated mitigation agreements and advised on related compliance matters, the firm said.

“Anne Salladin’s distinguished government career and contributions to CFIUS matters at Treasury are well-known, and include working to revise and implement the CFIUS regulations,” Chris Griner, an adviser on foreign investment cases before the CFIUS and the managing partner of Stroock’s Washington office, said in a statement.  “Her practical experience with complex international transactions and her thorough understanding of the CFIUS process will be invaluable to our clients and our national security group.”

Salladin is the third senior government official to join Stroock in the last few months. The firm’s Washington office opened in May with the hiring of Bob Plaze, who had been deputy director of the Division of Investment Management with the SEC. The firm also added Tram Nguyen, who had been chief of the private-funds branch of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management.

“Our new Washington office is an important and logical expansion of our firm, and attracting top legal minds like Anne is a priority for us,” Stuart Coleman, Stroock’s co-managing partner said in a statement. “Chris Griner has done a tremendous job of establishing, at Stroock, an extraordinarily talented and experienced team to support his National Security/CFIUS/Compliance practice.”

Stroock & Stroock has lawyers at offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.


DuPont Plans to Spin Off Volatile Performance Chemicals Unit

DuPont Co., the biggest U.S. chemical maker by market value, plans to split itself in two by spinning off its performance-chemicals unit, part of an effort to boost shareholder value and focus on higher-margin products. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is providing legal representation to DuPont. Evercore Partners Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are strategic advisers on the separation.

The Skadden team includes New York partners Brandon Van Dyke and Lou Kling, mergers and acquisitions; David Rievman, tax; and Regina Olshan, executive compensation and benefits.

The tax-free spinoff will be completed in about 18 months, after which DuPont investors will hold all of the new company, Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont said in a statement. The unit makes pigments, refrigerants and non-stick coatings, accounting for 29 percent of DuPont’s $6.3 billion of operating earnings last year, the company said in a presentation.

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What to Watch: Senate Nominations including Akin Gump’s Millett

The Senate will focus on President Barack Obama’s nominations when it returns this week.

The big question: Will nominees be confirmed to two of the three open seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

It’s a high-profile court. It handles cases involving federal regulations and it’s been a career stop for more than a few Supreme Court nominees.

Of the eight current judges, four were appointed by Democratic presidents and four were appointed by Republicans. If more Obama selections go on that court, look for a different philosophical mix in the three-judge panels that handle the court’s routine business. Only one of the judges on the court, Sri Srinivasan, was nominated by Obama.

Majority Leader Harry Reid complained about the composition of the court earlier this year when it ruled against the administration on recess appointments. In a floor speech on May 22 arguing for Srinivasan’s confirmation, Reid said that “we have a majority in that court that is wreaking havoc with the country.”

“Instead of a balanced court,” some Democrats “want to make sure they get favorable outcomes from this court,” Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a Sept. 19 statement.

Grassley also said the court isn’t busy enough to warrant filling all of its vacancies.

Reid is planning to seek votes next week to confirm Washington lawyer Patricia Millett, who co-heads Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s Supreme Court practice, and Georgetown University law professor Nina Pillard to seats on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said a leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.

All eight committee Republicans voted against the two nominations when they were reported on party-line votes.

Millett’s nomination probably will be considered first, because the committee sent her nomination to the floor before it reported the nomination of Pillard, said Michelle Schwartz, director of judicial programs at Alliance for Justice, a Washington-based advocacy group that is generally allied with Democrats.

Before the Senate turns to the court nominations, the first order of business will be a Monday cloture vote on Obama’s choice of Richard F. Griffin Jr. to be general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

Griffin, who had been given a recess appointment to the NLRB, was nominated for agency’s top legal job as part of a deal to allow Senate confirmation of three other board nominations. As part of that agreement, Democrats dropped efforts to win Griffin’s confirmation to the board as well as another recess appointee to the NLRB, Sharon Block. The Senate confirmed two other board members after Obama withdrew their nominations.

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Ecuador Judge Says He Exaggerated Bribery Claims to Chevron

A former Ecuadorean judge who testified he and a colleague received bribes from plaintiffs who won a $19 billion pollution judgment against Chevron Corp. told a U.S. court he initially exaggerated those claims.

The former judge, Alberto Guerra, testified in a trial in Manhattan federal court Oct. 25 that he wasn’t truthful about some details when he first discussed the bribery allegations with Chevron representatives in 2012.

Guerra, a key witness for Chevron in a racketeering case against lawyers for Ecuadorean plaintiffs who claim the company polluted their communities, has testified to receiving as much as $40,000 to ghostwrite rulings for another judge who presided over the Chevron case, as well as editing and polishing the $19 billion judgment. The other judge, Nicolas Zambrano, was promised $500,000 from the proceeds of the 2011 judgment, Guerra said in his testimony.

When first discussing those bribery allegations with Chevron, Guerra falsely told company representatives the plaintiffs promised him $300,000 to help steer the case in their favor, according to his testimony.

“It was an exaggeration on my part in order to secure a better position for myself,” he said through a translator, under questioning by Zoe Littlepage, a lawyer for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Steven Donziger. “It was not true.”

Chevron is trying to prove in a non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan that Donziger and his associates schemed to “shake down” the second-largest U.S. energy company by pursuing a case over pollution at a drilling site in the Ecuadorean Amazon, in part by taking advantage of corruption in the South American country’s judiciary.

Donziger, a Harvard Law School-educated Manhattan lawyer, denies he did anything illegal in Ecuador. He argues the judgment is valid and that Chevron used tactics similar to those it claims he engaged in.

Donziger claims Guerra cut a deal with Chevron in which the company agreed to pay the former judge at least $326,000 through 2015 for his testimony.

In the racketeering case, Chevron is seeking a ruling barring the environmental plaintiffs’ lawyers from seeking to enforce the Ecuadorean judgment in courts around the world.

The racketeering case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 11-cv-00691, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The appeals court case is In re Naranjo, 13-00772, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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