The U.S. Federal Trade Commission hired a top Washington litigator to run its antitrust investigation of Google Inc. (GOOG:US), signaling the agency may be preparing a lawsuit against the world’s largest search engine.
The FTC is bringing in Beth Wilkinson, a partner with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, who is known for winning the death sentence against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and litigating for companies including Pfizer Inc. (PFE:US) and Philip Morris International Inc. (PM:US) General counsel of Fannie Mae (FNMA:US) from 2006 to 2008, Wilkinson, 49, has never lost a case.
“Historically, the FTC and the Justice Department bring in outside counsel only in the most high-profile and complicated cases, and only when they’re really serious about proceeding,” said Samuel Miller, senior counsel with Sidley Austin LLP in San Francisco, who was tapped to lead the department’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. in 1994.
Google disclosed in June that the FTC had opened a broad antitrust investigation of its business practices. The FTC is focusing on whether Google unfairly ranks search results to favor its own businesses and increased advertising rates for competitors, people familiar with the probe told Bloomberg News at the time.
The agency also is examining whether the Mountain View, California-based company is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone makers from using rivals’ applications, and whether search results that include the new Google+ social-networking service violate antitrust laws, the people said.
“We are delighted to have someone of her caliber helping us on such an important matter,” said Rich Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.
He said no conclusion has been reached on whether to bring a lawsuit and no decision is “imminent.” He declined to comment further on the investigation.
Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano declined to comment on Wilkinson’s hiring.
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TD Bank Says Its Lawyer Falsely Told Judge Document Didn’t Exist
A Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) lawyer falsely told a judge that a document didn’t exist when investors suing over convicted conman Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme requested it, the bank’s attorneys said in a filing.
The bank this week produced the document, an internal bank record called a “Standard Investigative Protocol,” and told a judge that its attorney previously gave false information when she said it didn’t exist.
TD Bank also replaced the law firm, Greenberg Traurig LLP, which represented it during a January trial in which the bank was sued by investors who claimed it should have detected money laundering in accounts Rothstein held there. Jurors in Miami awarded the investors $67 million.
McGuireWoods LLP will now represent TD Bank in the lawsuit and in a related one, Rebecca Acevedo, a bank spokeswoman, said in a statement.
“TD and Greenberg Traurig decided it was in the best interest of all concerned that McGuireWoods represents TD,” Acevedo said.
During the trial, one of the bank’s attorneys with Greenberg Traurig told U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke that the bank didn’t have a “Standard Investigative Protocol,” according to a transcript of proceedings on Jan. 13. A TD Bank senior vice president also said in an affidavit that the document didn’t exist.
“We cannot comment directly about facts regarding our representation of a client, particularly a matter currently before the court,” Jill Perry, a spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig, said April 25 in an e-mailed statement. “We are working to address this situation in a professional manner.”
David Mandel, attorney for the investors, declined to comment.
Separately, the investors, known collectively as the Coquina group, asked the judge last week to sanction the bank because a different document produced by the bank was altered before it was given to Coquina’s attorneys.
Cooke has scheduled a hearing for Greenberg Traurig to address the issue of the altered document and to show why its attorneys shouldn’t held in contempt for their statements about the protocol.
Rothstein, co-founder of the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale- based firm Rothstein, Rosenfeldt & Adler, is serving a 50-year sentence for conspiracy to commit fraud. Investigators say his $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme is the largest in Florida history. Rothstein sold investors stakes in sexual- and employment- discrimination cases that turned out to be non-existent.
The case is Coquina Investments v. Rothstein, 10-cv-60786, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).
Murdoch Blames Underlings, Lawyers for Phone-Hack Cover-Up
Rupert Murdoch told a U.K. media-ethics inquiry that he “failed” to prevent the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s News of the World tabloid and blamed employees and lawyers for covering up the crime.
Senior executives at News Corp. were never told by lower- ranking officials at the company’s U.K. unit about the extent to which reporters intercepted voice mails for stories, the 81- year-old chief executive officer told the inquiry yesterday.
“The senior executives were misinformed and shielded from anything that was going on,” Murdoch said on his second and final day of testimony in London.
The company wrongly accepted conclusions from the Metropolitan Police in London and two outside law firms that the case was resolved, Murdoch said. The Met denied Murdoch’s characterization and one law firm, Harbottle & Lewis LLP, has said its work was limited to an unfair dismissal claim filed by the reporter jailed over hacking in 2007.
“I should have gone down there and thrown all the damn lawyers out of the place,” Murdoch said.
Tom Crone, the former legal manager for the U.K. unit, News International, denied he helped cover up the scandal, calling Murdoch’s claim a “shameful lie.”
“The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting” the scandal to James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the unit’s ex-chief executive officer who was arrested last year in police probes of phone hacking and bribery, Crone said in a statement.
After James Murdoch testified about the scandal before a parliamentary committee in July, Crone and the tabloid’s former editor Colin Myler contradicted his claims that neither man informed him of evidence phone hacking might be widespread.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the inquiry last year after evidence emerged that voice-mail interceptions at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid were rampant and police opened probes into bribery and computer hacking by journalists at his other U.K. titles. During testimony this week, Murdoch’s son, News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, also blamed underlings for failing to contain the scandal.
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European Law Firms Show ‘Worrying’ Risk Complacency, Survey Says
More than 40 percent of European law firms don’t know whether they have suffered a data breach in the past three years, a data management company said yesterday in announcing the results of a risk survey.
Law firms’ responses to questions on data breaches, data- loss and non-compliance showed complacency on information protection that made them the worst-performing industry in the report, according to Iron Mountain Inc. (IRM:US)
“If you are looking at data protection, law firms are way behind, absolutely no doubt,” said Frank Maher, a lawyer at Liverpool-based Legal Risk LLP. “A few of the largest firms are just about getting it right but the vast majority barely even get to base camp on compliance.”
Law firms averaged just 33.3 points from their survey responses out of an ideal score of 100. The financial services sector ranked highest with 46.3, compared to a European company- average of 40. The report, done with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and released in March, questioned 600 businesses across Europe including insurance, financial services and pharmaceutical companies.
Just under 30 percent of law firms who responded said they don’t have any training programs in place to teach employees about risk.
Latham, Linklaters Represent Firms in Watson Purchase of Actavis
Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (WPI:US), maker of the generic version of Lipitor cholesterol pills, agreed to buy closely held drugmaker Actavis Group hf for 4.25 billion euros ($5.6 billion), expanding its reach in Europe and Asia.
Latham & Watkins LLP provided legal counsel to Watson while Bank of America Corp. served as sole financial adviser. Actavis received legal advice from Linklaters LLP. Clifford Chance LLP was also listed as involved. Actavis had financial advice from Blackstone Group LP and Deutsche Bank AG. (DBK)
Latham & Watkins’s corporate team was led by partners R. Scott Shean and Charles Ruck in the firm’s Orange County, California, office and Michael Bond in the London office. Associates Robbie McLaren in London, David Lee in Orange County and Stephen Amdur in New York also helped.
Advice was also provided on tax matters by partners Sean Finn in London, Nicholas DeNovio in Washington and Laurence Stein in Los Angeles. On employee benefits matters, partners Bradd Williamson in New York and Catherine Drinnan in London contributed. On finance matters, partners Daniel Seale in New York and Wesley Holmes in Orange County and associates Jesse Sheff and Ryan deFord were involved.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP represented Watson in connection with the antitrust aspects. Partners included Steven Sunshine, antitrust and competition group in Washington, and Ingrid Vandenborre, antitrust and competition group in Brussels.
Linklaters advised Actavis and a group of stakeholders on the sale, the firm said in a statement. The Linklaters team was led by private-equity partner and co-head of global private equity sector Ian Bagshaw, tax partner Elizabeth Conway and corporate partner Aisling Zarraga, all in London. The team was supported by London associate Christopher Boycott. The team also included lawyers from the firm’s London, New York, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Moscow offices.
Clifford Chance didn’t respond to phone calls seeking to confirm its involvement and requesting the names of the lawyers on the deal.
The deal will create the third-largest global generic-drug maker with $8 billion in anticipated in 2012 revenue, Parsippany, New Jersey-based Watson said April 25 in a statement. Watson will add 5.5 million shares, valued at $330 million, to the deal in 2013 if Actavis hits certain performance milestones this year.
“The transaction itself is commercially compelling, it’s financially compelling, and it expands our team,” Watson Chief Executive Officer Paul Bisaro said April 25 in a conference call. “The combination of all of those things, I think, is going to make an extremely powerful global company.”
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Seyfarth Shaw Appoints New York Litigation Practice Chair
Jonathan P. Wolfert was named chairman of Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s New York litigation practice.
Wolfert, who has been at the firm for four years, focuses his practice on complex insurance coverage, business torts, contract disputes, securities, intellectual property and bankruptcy litigation.
The firm has more than 180 attorneys in offices throughout the U.S. in the commercial litigation practice. Seyfarth Shaw has more than 800 attorneys in offices throughout the U.S., including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, as well as internationally in London.
Allen & Overy Strengthens Russian, Capital Markets Practice
Allen & Overy LLP added Cameron Half as a U.S. counsel in the international capital markets practice in the firm’s London office.
Half was previously an executive director in the capital markets execution team at Morgan Stanley in London, where he was responsible for structuring and executing European equity and equity-linked transactions, with a focus on equity offerings by Russian businesses, the firm said in a statement.
Half has experience in SEC-registered and Rule 144A equity and debt offerings, including IPOs and follow-on offerings and listings for leading Russian businesses such as Evraz Group, Polymetal, Yandex, Mechel, Globaltrans, Globalports, Transcontainer and HMS Group, as well as for European companies including Delta Lloyd Group, PZU SA, New World Resources and Piraeus Bank, the firm said.
Allen & Overy’s core Russian and CIS Capital Markets team has 12 partners and one U.S. counsel, based in Moscow and London, specializing in equity, debt, equity-linked, structured and derivatives products. The firm has about 4,750 staff, including 480 partners, working in 39 offices worldwide.
Joseph Rice to Step Down as Chairman of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice
Joseph Rice III, chairman of the private-equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC and a former lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, will step down later this year, the company told its investors.
Rice, 80, will leave in June, the New York-based firm said April 25 in a letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The firm declined to comment.
Clayton, Dubilier is one of the oldest private-equity firms. Rice, a lawyer, was at Sullivan & Cromwell before working in investment banking and leveraged buyouts and helped form the firm that bears his name in 1978.
The firm specializes in so-called carve-out deals, in which it buys unwanted or underperforming divisions of larger corporations such as Xerox Corp. (XRX:US) and Ford Motor Co. Clayton, Dubilier was among the first to hire former corporate executives, known as operating partners, to advise on deals. The firm counts former General Electric Co. (GE:US) Chairman Jack Welch among its advisers.
Rice graduated from Williams College before earning a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1960.
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