Squire Sanders, Patton Boggs Merge After Chevron Fight

Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs LLP are merging to create a new law firm that will be among the 25 biggest in the world with about 1,600 lawyers in 21 countries.

The announcement that the new firm will be called Squire Patton Boggs comes two weeks after Patton Boggs agreed to pay $15 million to settle Chevron Corp.’s lawsuit over the firm’s involvement in obtaining a $9.5 billion judgment against the oil company in Ecuador.

The combination is part of a trend of “continuing robust merger activity” in 2014 after a “banner year” in 2013, according to data compiled by law firm consultancy Altman Weil. The organization reported 88 law firm mergers last year, up from 60 in both 2011 and 2012.

The merger will transform the brand of Squire Sanders “from being an Ohio firm to being a Washington, D.C., firm,” law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser said yesterday. While Patton Boggs is known as a “lobby shop,” it also has a strong practice advising Middle Eastern sovereign funds in their investments around the globe, he said.

Revenue and profitability at Patton Boggs, which has about 400 lawyers, had declined consistently over the past five years, Zeughauser said. Even after a restructuring improved its prospects, it “needed to combine with a stronger firm to be sustainable,” he said.

Failed Efforts

Zeughauser said he advised Patton Boggs on the restructuring and in other previous failed merger efforts, though he hasn’t consulted the firm during the past year.

Jim Maiwurm, Squire Sanders Chairman and Global Chief Executive Officer, said yesterday in a statement that the combination with Patton Boggs will create the “‘go-to firm for public policy work.’’ The merger is expected to take effect by June 1, according to the statement.

Patton Boggs specializes in government relations, lobbying and regulatory practices, according to the statement.

Ed Newberry, Managing Partner of Patton Boggs, said Squire Sanders’s financial markets expertise in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East made it attractive. Squire Sanders has about 1,300 lawyers in 39 offices across 19 countries.

Patton Boggs entertained other offers. It announced in December that merger talks were called off with Locke Lord LLP.

Dentons, a 2,600-lawyer international firm formed a year ago through the combination of Salans LLP, Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP and SNR Denton, said last month that it was interested in expanding further through a combination with Patton Boggs. Dentons expressed interest after Patton Boggs had already announced merger discussions with Squire Sanders in February.

Ecuador Case

In the Ecuador case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York on March 4 ruled that an attorney from another firm, Steven Donziger, had resorted to bribery and fraud in procuring the Chevron judgment in Ecuador that held the oil company liable for polluting the Amazon rain forest. Donziger is appealing the decision.

Kaplan’s ruling ‘‘includes a number of factual findings about matters which would have materially affected our firm’s decision to become involved and stay involved as counsel,” Patton Boggs said in a statement. “Patton Boggs regrets its involvement in this matter.”

On April 29, Kaplan threw out Patton Boggs’s claim that San Ramon, California-based Chevron maliciously sued the firm for pursuing collection of the judgment. The law firm, which provided as much as $15 million to finance the Ecuador litigation, had sought access to $21.8 million Chevron had been ordered to post as a bond.

The Chevron case is Patton Boggs LLP v. Chevron Corp., 12-cv-09176, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The racketeering case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 11-cv-00691, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(An earlier version of this story was corrected because Patton Boggs was misspelled in some references.)

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