Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders to Merge: Business of Law

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

In a telephone conference today, leaders of both firms stressed their strategic and cultural fits. Squire Sanders Chairman Jim Maiwurm said that “substantially everyone will be joining” the merged firm, except for a few who may have conflicts or “don’t feel comfortable” with the deal.

He didn’t address a report by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Paul M. Barrett that two Patton Boggs lawyers involved in a lawsuit against Chevron Corp. won’t stay with the combined firm.

Two weeks ago, Patton Boggs agreed to pay $15 million to settle Chevron’s lawsuit over the firm’s involvement in obtaining a $9.5 billion judgment against the oil company in Ecuador for pollution in the Amazon rain forest.

The merger is expected to take effect by June 1, Squire Sanders said. In New York, Patton Boggs lawyers will move into the Squire Sanders offices at Rockefeller Center, while in Washington, Squire Sanders lawyers will be rehoused in Patton Boggs’s offices, Maiwurm said.

Revenue and profitability at Patton Boggs, which has about 400 lawyers, declined consistently during the past five years, law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser said May 23. Even after a restructuring improved its prospects, it “needed to combine with a stronger firm to be sustainable,” he said.

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.

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Lawsuit News

Republican National Committee Sues for Right to Raise Funds

The Republican National Committee, in its continuing bid to scale back campaign finance restrictions, sued for the right to raise unlimited funds for independent expenditures that advocate for a candidate’s election.

The lawsuit, filed May 23 against the Federal Election Commission in Washington federal court, seeks to eliminate an annual $32,400 per person limit on contributions to the party, making its independent spending similar to that of a so-called super-PAC, or political action committee. The RNC didn’t challenge limits on contributions made directly to candidates’ campaigns.

James Bopp, an attorney for the RNC, said the the party is seeking to have the case heard by a three-judge panel so it can appeal an adverse ruling directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bopp said Republicans want the restrictions on independent spending blocked in time for the 2014 elections.

The case is Republican National Committee v. Federal Election Commission, 14-cv-00853, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

GM, Delphi Win Delay of Four Texas Customer Injury Suits

General Motors Co. and Delphi Automotive Systems LLC won a delay of four lawsuits by Texas customers over accidents in recalled cars as a panel of judges granted the companies’ emergency requests.

The companies sought to postpone court proceedings until the panel decides whether to combine similar suits into one, saying they anticipate more injury claims being brought and a single judge could handle them more efficiently. They twice requested rulings from both a trial court and a so-called multidistrict legislation panel in Texas, saying only two of four customer groups had agreed to wait.

“There will remain multiple lawsuits, in multiple courts of the state, involving similar parties and issues” if the cases aren’t combined, GM had said.

Deciding unanimously, the panel last week stopped the ignition-switch related suits by accident victims who opposed waiting, according to a filing in Texas Supreme court.

GM has also said it’s separately facing at least 79 lawsuits by customers demanding as much as $10 billion for the lost value of their cars resulting from the defective ignition switches.

The case is In Re General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation, 14-0399, Texas Supreme Court, Before the Multi-District Litigation Panel of Texas (Austin).

Law Firm News

Paul Hastings Adds Prosecutor to Its New York Office

John Nowak, a former deputy chief of the business and securities fraud section of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, New York, joined Paul Hastings LLP as of counsel.

Nowak also previously served as a branch chief in the Enforcement Division at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“John has tremendous experience and a great track record,” Ken Breen, chairman of the firm’s investigations and white collar defense practice, said in a statement.

Moye White in Denver Hires Pair From Ballard Spahr

Moye White LLP hired Lynne M. Hanson and Craig J. Knobbe as partners. Both attorneys were previously of counsel with Ballard Spahr LLP.

Hanson specializes in franchising and distribution regulatory law and has represented franchisors in general business, regulatory and transactional matters for more than 20 years, according to the firm. She also serves as a board member and counsel for nonprofit Cocktails for a Cause Inc.

Knobbe’s practice focuses on franchise and distribution, real estate and corporate law. He represents franchisors in matters relating to franchise registration and disclosure laws and corporate and real estate matters.

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