Bloomberg News

DLA Piper, Jones Day, Baker Botts: Business of Law

September 04, 2012

DLA Piper, the world’s second- largest law firm by revenue, and Jones Day, the top legal adviser on mergers by deal count, said they bid for licenses in Singapore as the Asian city further opens its legal market.

Twenty-three foreign law firms applied for the licenses as at the close of submissions Aug. 31, the Ministry of Law said in an e-mailed statement. The licenses allow foreign firms to practice Singapore corporate law and hire locally qualified lawyers.

K&L Gates LLP, based in Pittsburgh, and Watson, Farley & Williams LLP, based in London, also said they bid for the so- called Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licenses in Singapore, where $35.6 billion of mergers and acquisitions have been announced this year, a 25 percent increase on the same period in 2011, while deals in U.S. and Europe fell.

“Asia is a key driver of global economic growth,” said Sushma Jobanputra, the partner in charge of Jones Day’s Singapore operations. “With that growth will come the increased need for Singapore law advice.”

The number of licenses to be awarded will depend on the quality of the applications, Singapore’s law ministry has said. Determining factors include the firm’s track record, number of lawyers, commitment to offshore work and practice areas.

The law ministry, which will assess the applications with officials from the finance ministry, central bank and attorney- general’s office, said it expects to award the licenses by the end of the year.

White & Case LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Herbert Smith LLP, Allen & Overy LLP and Norton Rose LLP won the first licenses in 2008. They committed to double their revenue, staffing and profits in the city in five years. Twenty firms including Washington-based Jones Day had applied.

Foreign firms could previously advise on Singapore corporate law through joint ventures or refer clients to a local practice. The number of foreign lawyers in the Southeast Asian city has almost doubled to 1,200 at the end of 2011 from 633 in 2007.

“The license has been very helpful to us in meeting the needs of our clients since there is an increasing demand to provide ‘one-stop’ shopping on matters,” said Barrye Wall, the Singapore-based regional section head for White & Case in Asia.

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Clint Eastwood’s Surprise Convention Speech Jabs at Lawyers

On the night Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had the chance to present a prime-time case for election, the first thing network television viewers saw as the stations tuned-in to the ongoing national convention at 10 p.m. was actor Clint Eastwood on stage. He took a jab at lawyers in his speech.

Forgetting that Romney is a Harvard Law School graduate, Eastwood took a swipe at lawyers, saying, “Always weighing everything,” he said. “They are always Devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that.”

While engaged in a lengthy, rambling imaginary conversation with a foul-mouthed empty chair standing in for President Barack Obama, Eastwood asked, “What do you want me to tell Romney?” the 82-year-old actor asked at one point.

“I can’t tell him to do that,” he continued, apparently in reference to a physically impossible sexual act, eliciting ripples of laughter from the delegates. “I can’t tell him to do that to himself.”

The opening skit was a departure from the usual tone of political conventions, which for decades now have been largely scripted events. It was immediately mocked on Twitter, with an @InvisibleChair account created within minutes and Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant who is now a television writer in Hollywood, posting the message: “Note to file: Actors need a script.”

“A great night for Mitt Romney just got sidetracked by Clint Eastwood,” said former Republican Representative Joe Scarborough in a Twitter message. “Wow. That was bad.”

Delegates were spellbound by the comedy routine. When he declared, “We own this country,” delegates gave him a standing ovation. When he said if a politician didn’t get the job done voters should let him go, delegates chanted, “Let him go.”

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Highland Capital Spat With Ex-Partner Daugherty Turns to Lawyers

Highland Capital Management LP’s courthouse feud with former executive Patrick Daugherty over his statements and the investment advisory firm’s money has veered into the conduct of Daugherty’s legal counsel.

Judge Martin Hoffman in Dallas heard Aug. 31 an argument from lawyers for Highland and Chief Executive Officer James Dondero seeking sanctions against Daugherty and his attorneys at Houston-based Looper Reed & McGraw PC.

Highland lawyer James Stanton told Hoffman that Daugherty and his attorneys misled the judge about talking with the media when they filed a counterclaim in May that included privileged and confidential information about Highland.

“This is not how it’s supposed to be under the Texas lawyers’ creed,” Stanton told the judge.

Ruth Ann Daniels, Daugherty’s lawyer, responded, “The question is, ‘What is confidential and privileged about anything in our lawsuit?’”

Hoffman, who didn’t rule on the matter, said he would address the issue of what information might be confidential and privileged at a future hearing. He said he would issue sanctions if he believes the material in Daugherty’s counterclaim is confidential.

Dallas-based Highland sued Daugherty for allegedly making defamatory comments about the business to investors and for breach of contract on April 11. Two weeks earlier Daugherty, who left the firm in September 2011, had testified against James Dondero as a witness for Rebecca Dondero at a hearing in the couple’s divorce case.

“He told me his plan was to get his net worth down and pay her as little as possible,” Daugherty said James Dondero had told him when they’d met for drinks in February.

Daugherty denied the Highland allegations and in May countersued, claiming he is owed an unspecified amount of money from a joint venture and firm employee retention and incentive plans.

Daugherty and his lawyers also filed a request for the imposition of sanctions against Highland and its lawyers, Andrews Kurth LLP, accusing them of waging “a vicious smear campaign,” after which the case was briefly sealed at plaintiffs’ request.

In an Aug. 20 filing, Daugherty and Looper Reed also responded to the sanctions request by calling it “baseless” and “devoid of merit.”

“Highland initiated this litigation to defame Daugherty, to avoid paying him the compensation and ownership interests in Highland affiliated entities that he is owed and to punish Daugherty for his truthful testimony in Dondero’s divorce proceedings,” according to the defense filing.

The case is Highland Capital Management LP v. Daugherty, 12-04005, District Court of Dallas County, Texas, 68th Judicial District.

Firm News

Baker Botts Names Jamie Baker New International Partner

Jamie Baker, Baker Botts LLP’s Washington office partner in charge, became the firm’s international partner on Sept. 1.

Baker’s practice concentrates on domestic and international commercial and trade-related matters and transactions. Among his clients are Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Interros Holdings and East Mediterranean Gas JSC.

Paul Cuomo, a partner in the firm’s antitrust and competition practice based in Washington, will become deputy partner in charge in that office. In the newly created role, Cuomo will provide support to the management of the office.

Baker Botts currently has seven international offices in: Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Moscow and Riyadh. The firm has over 725 lawyers and 13 offices around the world.

Moves

Regulator Partner Heiko Hoefler joins Bird & Bird in Frankfurt

Bird & Bird hired Heiko Hoefler as partner in the international regulatory and administrative practice group. He joins the Frankfurt office on Oct. 1, along with two associates.

Hoefler was previously the head of the German energy and infrastructure group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, according to the firm’s website.

Hoefler has experience advising companies, banks, foreign investors, institutions and governments. He specializes in complex investments and transactions in the public sector, as well as advising on variety of infrastructure and technology projects and public-private partnerships in Germany and internationally, the firm said.

Bird & Bird has 23 offices in 16 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Litigation

Ex-UBS Executive Ghavami Guilty in Municipal Bid-Rig Case

Ex-UBS AG (UBSN) managing director Peter Ghavami and two former colleagues were convicted of rigging bids for contracts for investing proceeds of municipal bond sales.

After about two days of deliberations, jurors in New York found Ghavami, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty guilty Aug. 31 of wire fraud conspiracy for rigging bids from August 2001 to July 2002 and arranging to pay kickbacks to the brokerage firm CDR Financial Products Inc. in exchange for help in manipulating auctions.

Ghavami and Heinz were further found guilty of wire fraud in connection with making payments. Welty was found not guilty of wire fraud, and Heinz was found not guilty of one count of witness tampering.

The trial followed a five-year federal antitrust investigation into the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market.

“We’re disappointed with the verdict but we look forward to pressing ahead in this fight,” Charles Stillman, a lawyer for Ghavami, said after the verdict.

Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for Heinz, said, “We respect the verdict. We will continue to fight hard for Gary in the next stage of the process.”

Lawyers for Welty, Preston Burton and Gregory L. Poe, declined to comment.

Sentencing dates have not yet been set for the three men. The most serious charge, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, carries a 30-year maximum sentence.

“A lot of people in this industry lost their moral compass,” Kalina Tulley, a Justice Department lawyer, said Aug. 28 in closing arguments.

Defense lawyers blamed the cooperating witnesses for much of the alleged illegal activity.

The case is U.S. v. Ghavami, 10-cr-1217, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Pentagon Says Ex-Navy Seal’s Book Broke Non-Disclosure Pact

The Pentagon said a former U.S. Navy SEAL who wrote a firsthand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden violated an agreement he signed never to divulge classified information and may face legal action.

The former SEAL broke the agreement by writing the new book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden,” Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson wrote in a letter. The letter was addressed to the author, who wrote the book under the pen name “Mark Owen,” care of the book’s publisher.

“In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed” in 2007, Johnson wrote to Owen. “Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements.”

Johnson said the letter was meant to put the author on notice that “the department is considering pursuing against you and all those acting in concert with you all remedies legally available to us.”

The author was first identified publicly by Fox News as Matt Bissonnette, 36, of La Mirada, California, who was a member of the elite counterterrorism SEAL Team Six that killed Bin Laden. Among Bissonnette’s awards and decorations are five Bronze Stars with “V” for Valor device, according to a Navy information sheet released earlier this week. The Bronze Star is the military’s fourth-highest award for bravery.

The 2007 agreement “invites, but by no means requires Mr. Owen to submit materials for pre-publication review,” Bissonnette’s attorney, Robert Luskin of the Washington firm of Patton Boggs LLP, said in a letter Aug. 31 to Johnson.

Although the agreement “does require pre-publication security review under certain circumstances, that obligation is expressly limited to specifically identified” classified so- called Special Access programs spelled out on the date it was signed, Luskin wrote.

“It is difficult to understand how the matter that is the subject of Mr. Owen’s book could conceivably be encompassed by the non-disclosure agreement that you have identified,” Luskin said.

The book is scheduled to be published Sept. 4 by Dutton, a unit of Penguin Group USA, and is already No. 1 on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. Bissonnette co-wrote the book with Kevin Maurer, who has previously written about special-operations warfare.

For more, click here.

Bankruptcy

MF Global Trustee Giddens Says Rival Freeh Conflicted on Claims

MF Global Inc. trustee James Giddens, of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, said he’s better suited to pursue claims against former directors and officers of the brokerage than Louis Freeh, a rival trustee unwinding the bankrupt parent company.

Giddens struck an agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs to pursue claims to recover money for customers and creditors of MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MFGLQ:US), which filed the eighth-biggest U.S. bankruptcy under Chapter 11 on Oct. 30. Freeh objected to the agreement, claiming general estate creditors would be shortchanged.

As a customers and general claim holders’ representative, Giddens doesn’t “have the same apparent conflicts the Chapter 11 trustee has with some potential defendants who are employees or creditors of the Chapter 11 debtors,” James Kobak, Giddens’s lawyer, wrote in a court filing yesterday in Manhattan bankruptcy court. “Concerns that the interests of MFGI’s general creditors will not be protected are misplaced.”

Giddens said he determined claims for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence against former MF Global Chief Executive Officer Jon S. Corzine, former chief financial officer Henri Steenkamp and former assistant treasurer Edith O’Brien, among others, which he plans to pursue to recover more money for creditors. A hearing on Giddens’ request to cooperate with the class-action plaintiffs is scheduled for Sept. 5, according to court records.

Because the agreement calls for general estate creditors to be paid only if the customers are paid in full first, the customers “are clearly not properly incentivized to litigate fully,” Freeh said in an objection filed Aug. 29.

He said that while some lawsuit proceeds may belong to customers, it is up to the general estate to manage them.

MF Global Holdings, run by former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) Co-Chairman Corzine until his Nov. 4 resignation, filed for bankruptcy after a $6.3 billion trade on its own behalf on bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations led to margin calls.

The brokerage case is Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. MF Global Inc., 11-02790, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The parent’s bankruptcy case is MF Global Holdings Ltd., 11-bk-15059, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Amon in Brooklyn, New York, at eamon2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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