Dentons Sues Guinea Over $10 Million in Fees: Business of Law

Dentons US LLP accused the West African nation of Guinea of refusing to pay more than $10 million in legal fees and costs for work done in connection with the country’s troubled Simandou mining project.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, the firm claims its team, which included some outside specialists, “produced scores of reports, presentations, memoranda, drafts, negotiator notes and other deliverables including briefings to the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Finance, the inter-ministerial working group convened by the Ministry of Mines and a working group designated by the President of Guinea.”

The firm says its team worked more than 10,000 hours since it was retained by Guinea in 2012, with rates ranging from $200 for some associates to $1,000 an hour for the most highly-paid partners, according to the engagement letter filed as an exhibit to the complaint.

The Simandou project “involves the development of one of the world’s largest iron ore mines in the mountains of Southern Guinea, a 650 kilometer (402 mile) trans-Guinean railway and a port capable of handling capesized vessels,” according to the complaint.

While Rio Tinto Group was the original developer, in 2008 Guinea gave its rights to half the project to a venture controlled by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources Ltd. and Brazil’s Vale SA. Following a 2011 settlement with Rio Tinto, Dentons was retained by Guinea for legal work.

The suit, filed on Aug. 1, is not the only U.S. litigation emanating from the project.

In April, Guinea stripped the Vale-BSG Resources joint venture of its license, following claims of bribery and corruption.

Rio Tinto then sued Vale, Steinmetz and BSG Resources, saying they conspired to steal the rights to Simandou. The three have denied wrongdoing and BSG Resources separately has said that it plans to arbitrate its dispute with Guinea.

Aly Camara, listed on the Guinea Embassy’s website as the First Secretary in Charge of Financial and Consular Affairs didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the suit.

Michael Sundermeyer of Williams & Connolly LLP represents Dentons in the case and referred questions to Dentons. Lisa Sachdev, Dentons’ spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The case is Dentons US LLP v. Republic of Guinea, 1:14-cv-01312, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). Rio Tinto’s case is Rio Tinto Plc v. Vale SA, 14-cv-03042, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Corporate Governance

Allergan Shareholders Should Accept Special Meeting, ISS Says

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an advisory firm that makes recommendations on proxy fights, yesterday said Allergan Inc. shareholders should agree to a special meeting, in a boost to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.’s efforts to take over the company.

Activist investor Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management LP is demanding the special shareholder meeting in an effort to remove most of the board at Allergan, the maker of the anti-wrinkle drug Botox. The recommendation follows a similar determination on Aug. 5 by Glass Lewis & Co., another investor advisory.

Allergan sued Valeant on Aug. 1, claiming the drugmaker colluded with Pershing Square to profit from trades ahead of the bid’s announcement, using its insider knowledge of the impending offer. Valeant and Pershing Square called the lawsuit a “desperate attempt to delay or avoid” the special shareholder meeting.

The case is Allergan Inc. v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., 14-cv-01214, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

Law Firm News

U.S. Swap Regulator’s Ritter Joins Chilton at DLA Piper Law Firm

Elizabeth Ritter, a 25-year veteran of the main U.S. derivatives regulator, has joined DLA Piper LLP as it expands its practice to respond to new rules for the $700 trillion swaps market.

Ritter follows to the firm her former boss Bart Chilton, who was a commissioner at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission as it increased oversight of swaps through rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The regulations are designed to reduce risks and increase transparency in swaps traded by firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG.

“I’m very much looking forward to helping advance cross-border financial market regulatory issues globally,” said Ritter. “I consider this to be a continuation of the public service I’ve done for the past quarter-century, just from a different forum.”

Ritter will be a partner in the firm’s Washington office.

For more, click here.

Lateral Hires at Sutherland Asbill, Arent Fox and Ballard Spahr

Jay Holloway and Liz Williamson have joined the energy and environmental practice group of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. Both attorneys, who were previously partners at Winston & Strawn LLP, will be partners in the firm’s Washington office. Holloway counsels clients on compliance with environmental laws and regulations, including the Clean Air Act. He also advises on permitting and enforcement matters. Williamson counsels energy clients on environmental regulations under state and federal law, with an emphasis on Clean Air Act issues.

Automotive industry specialist Russell McRory has joined the New York office of Arent Fox LLP as a partner in its automotive group. McRory regularly represents auto dealerships on issues involving regulatory compliance, relations with factories and suppliers, and franchising. In addition, he advises dealership owners on tax and asset protection and general corporate matters. He was previously the chair of the automobile franchise and dealership law practice at New York’s Robinson Brog Leinwand Greene Genovese & Gluck P.C.

Real estate attorney Michael Pollack has joined Ballard Spahr LLP as of counsel in the firm’s New York office. Pollack focuses on the deals involving commercial properties as well as lease transactions, construction contracts, real estate development projects and real estate litigation management. He was previously senior vice president and general counsel of The Ashforth Company Inc., a real estate firm, in Stamford, Connecticut.

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