M&A Market Spurs Move at Jones Day: Business of Law

With the deal market showing no signs of cooling, the demand for mergers-and-acquisitions lawyers has continued apace.

Jones Day and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP this week announced the addition of new partners to their ranks. In addition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP expanded their transactional practices.

“Law always follows business, and big law follows big business,” said Alisa Levin, a principal at the recruiting firm Greene-Levin-Snyder. While firms sometimes hire at the beginning of a market uptick, she said, they were more careful in hiring since the contraction of the legal market that began in 2008.

Three partners are joining the M&A practice of Jones Day. Michael McGuinness and George Flemma have joined in New York, and Benedict O’Halloran will join in London.

Flemma and O’Halloran previously worked at General Electric Co., the firm said in a statement. Flemma most recently was executive counsel for mergers and acquisitions, leading the worldwide transaction activity of GE Oil & Gas. O’Halloran most recently was general counsel for European transactions and the U.K., leading European M&A for GE’s industrial businesses while also serving as GE’s top lawyer in the U.K.

McGuinness led Shearman & Sterling’s Latin America M&A practice.

Bob Profusek, head of Jones Day’s global M&A practice, said in a statement that “these three lawyers are terrific additions to our M&A practice, each a first-rate practitioner with substantial cross-border experience and in very active sectors.”

Two partners are joining Freshfields in the firm’s New York office.

Mitchell Presser, who will head Freshfields’s U.S. M&A practice, was a founding partner of the private-equity firm Paine & Partners, and previously was a partner with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

James Douglas, who joins as head of Freshfields’s U.S. leveraged-finance practice, was previously the head of the banking and institutional investing practice in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

“These appointments demonstrate our continued commitment to strategic investments in the U.S. and enhance our status as the international law firm of choice for corporations, private-equity firms and financial institutions,” Matthew Herman, head of Freshfields’s U.S. corporate practice, said in a statement.

Sheppard Mullin added partner Joshua Dean in Orange County, California, and special counsel Thomas Reddy in San Francisco to the firm’s corporate practice from Bingham McCutchen LLP. Sheppard Mullin’s chairman, Guy N. Halgren, said in a statement that Dean “brings a significant level of banking industry M&A, securities and other experience” and Reddy “specializes in a mix of bank regulatory, finance and transactional work.”

Several private-equity partners last year left the Dallas office of Weil Gotshal for Sidley Austin LLP. This week the firm announced that John Quattrocchi, who was once an associate at the firm, was returning as a partner in its private-equity and M&A practices. Quattrocchi was most recently a partner at Dentons US LLP.

The accelerated hiring of transactional lawyers should continue. “There’s a lot of pent up demand,” Levin, the recruiter, said.

Hinshaw & Culbertson to Merge with Barger & Wolen of California

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, with 460 lawyers, and Barger & Wolen LLP, a California-based firm with 45 attorneys, will merge on Oct. 1. The combined firm will keep the name Hinshaw & Culbertson and will have offices in 11 states and London.

Barger focuses on the insurance industry, with litigation, reinsurance and regulatory practices, according to a statement announcing the merger.

For Hinshaw, which has a general corporate practice including insurance as well as professional liability, corporate law and litigation, the merger was part of a “strategic plan to focus on the insurance industry,” Robert Romero, a member of Hinshaw’s management committee and the head of its San Francisco office, said in a telephone interview. Once the merger is complete, the firm will have 120 attorneys focusing on the insurance industry.

Romero said that the combination of the two firms occurred only after “a lot of due diligence. You hear about cultural fit, and it was important for us to get a real sense of each other.” The firms found, he said, that “there’s a lot of commonality.”

Lawsuit News

Banks Win Narrowing of Credit-Default Swaps Antitrust Claims

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will face narrower claims in a lawsuit accusing them and 10 other banks of conspiring to limit competition in the credit-default swaps market.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan yesterday dismissed a claim in the consolidated case that the banks colluded to monopolize trading in the financial instruments, which are used to hedge credit risk. The banks must still face claims they worked together to limit competition in the CDS market.

Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value if a borrower fails to meet its obligations, less the value of the defaulted debt. The value of the contracts, which investors use to hedge against losses on corporate debt or to speculate on creditworthiness, declines as investor confidence improves and rises as it deteriorates.

The claims were filed by a group of investors, including public pension funds, that traded credit-default swaps with the banks from 2008 to 2013.

The case is In Re Credit Default Swaps Antitrust Litigation, 13-md-02476, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

NCAA $60 Million Video-Image Accord Up for Court Approval in May

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and Electronic Arts Inc. are scheduled to seek final court approval next May 14 of a $60 million settlement of claims that athletes’ images were wrongly used in video games.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, on Sept. 3 set the fairness hearing date and said in court papers that more than 100,000 individuals have potential claims.

“Plaintiffs allege, among other things, antitrust and right of publicity claims” including “license, use, and/or sale of class members’ name, image and likeness rights without compensation,” Wilken wrote in her order.

Wilken on July 24 gave preliminary approval of the settlement, which includes $40 million from game-maker Electronic Arts and $20 million from the NCAA.

The related cases are O’Bannon v. NCAA, 09-03329, and Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc., 09-01967, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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