Eight partners from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, including Yvette Ostolaza and Angela Fontana, national practice groups’ co-chairs, will join Sidley Austin LLP in Dallas.
Ostolaza, who was co-head of Weil’s complex commercial litigation practice and a member of the firm’s management committee, will be a global coordinator of Sidley’s complex commercial litigation practice and also will become Dallas office managing partner at the beginning of next year. James Bradley, Sidley’s current office head, will become senior counsel in January, the firm said.
Fontana was co-head of Weil’s U.S. banking and finance practice. Her practice consists primarily of financing transactions and debt restructurings, the firm said. She will become a global coordinator of Sidley’s private equity practice and become a member of the firm’s global finance practice.
“Lawyers in this group have built highly ranked practices in complex litigation, arbitrations, internal investigations and private equity finance, and will add considerable strength to our litigation experience and expertise and to our existing ability to advise clients on acquisition-related financings and debt restructurings,” Carter Phillips, chairman of Sidley’s executive committee, said.
Five other lawyers will join the firm’s complex commercial litigation practice from Weil, including Penny P. Reid, Vance Beagles, Angela Zambrano, Yolanda Cornejo Garcia and Michelle Hartmann. Kelly M. Dybala joins the private equity and global finance practices.
“Weil continues to have a strong presence in Texas in key practice areas that are a good strategic fit for our clients and our firm,” Robert Lennon, a spokesman for Weil, said in an e-mail.
The large group hire is the second for Sidley in recent months. In April, 11 securities enforcement and regulatory lawyers, including 10 partners, left Bingham McCutchen LLP for several different Sidley offices.
Phillips expects a number of associates to join and noted that the firm took on about 30 lawyers in all from Bingham.
“The Bingham hires proved successful,” he said in an interview. “We got very talented lawyers, very entrepreneurial and they brought all their clients, all that work and great opportunities.”
Sidley’s Dallas office opened in 1996 with a focus on intellectual property litigation. The expansion of the practices was something Sidley had been considering for several months before meeting with the Weil group, Phillips said.
The departure of Weil lawyers follows the announcement by the firm in June that it would fire 60 salaried attorneys and cut some partners’ pay.
Sidley has about 1,700 lawyers in 19 offices worldwide.
Huntsman to Acquire Rockwood Titanium Unit for $1.1 Billion
Huntsman Corp. (HUN:US) agreed to buy Rockwood Holdings Inc.’s (ROC:US) titanium-dioxide assets for $1.1 billion to create the world’s second-largest producer of the white pigment, with plans to sell shares in the new business.
Huntsman’s legal adviser is Vinson & Elkins LLP. Rockwood’s legal advisers are Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.
The V&E mergers and acquisitions team was led by Jeff Floyd and Steve Gill. Additional partners on the deal included Ted Stockbridge, M&A; Larry Nettles, environmental; David D’Alessandro, benefits; Billy Vigdor, antitrust; Sean Becker, labor; John Lynch, tax; Peter Mims, IP; and Dave Johnson and Bill Lawler, regulatory.
The Hughes Hubbard team representing Rockwood included corporate partner Jim Modlin as well as Andrew Braiterman, tax; Spencer Harrison, employee benefits; and Susan Campbell, environmental.
The Willkie team was led by Georg Linde, corporate; and included Patrick Meiisel, tax; Christian Rolf, employment; and Annette Peron, Gregory F. de Saxcé and Maurizio Delfino, corporate.
Skadden is antitrust counsel to Rockwood. The Skadden team includes antitrust/competition partners Steven Sunshine, Simon Baxter and Matthew Hendrickson.
Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP is representing BofA Merrill Lynch, financial adviser to Huntsman, with New York partner Howard Chatzinoff on the team.
Huntsman will take on $225 million in pension obligations, the Salt Lake City-based company said in a statement. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2014, subject to regulatory approvals, followed within two years by an initial public offering of the combined titanium-dioxide unit and other acquired assets, Huntsman said.
Huntsman is creating a business with 16 percent of the market for titanium-dioxide, also known by its chemical formula TiO2 and used as a whitener in paint and toothpaste. Shedding TiO2 allows Rockwood to focus on its higher-value lithium business, while Huntsman moving TiO2 to an independently traded company shifts investor focus to better-performing businesses such as polyurethanes, used in insulation and foam cushions.
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FCC Deputy General Counsel Returns to Davis Wright Tremaine
Peter Karanjia is returning to Davis Wright Tremaine LLP after spending three years as deputy general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, where he was responsible for overseeing all litigation involving the agency, the firm said in a statement.
He will join the communications, media, IP and technology group in Washington and will be co-chairman of the appellate practice group.
Karanjia has more than a decade of experience in communications, media, First Amendment and intellectual property law matters, the firm said. At the FCC, Karanjia argued cases before federal appellate courts working closely with the Solicitor General’s Office. Karanjia also led the FCC’s litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Before his position at the FCC, Karanjia worked from 2007 to 2010 as special counsel to New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood. He was previously a partner in Davis Wright’s New York office.
Davis Wright has about 500 lawyers in the U.S. and Shanghai.
Ballard Spahr Adds Litigator William McDaniel in Baltimore
William Alden McDaniel Jr. joined Ballard Spahr LLP as a partner in Baltimore. McDaniel, who has handled civil and criminal litigation including securities and fraud matters, joins from his own firm.
“Bill is in that increasingly exclusive club of true trial lawyers enjoying a reputation for handling major matters in a broad range of industries,” firm Chairman Mark Stewart said in a statement. “He has a level of experience that clients look for and value.”
McDaniel has represented government officials and been involved in cases related to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Whitewater, the Moscow spy scandal and Iran-Contra, the firm said.
In July, Ballard Spahr opened a New York office when it joined with Stillman & Friedman, a white-collar, regulatory and civil-litigation boutique. The firm now has more than 200 litigators in 14 offices nationwide.
“Ballard Spahr has the national scope and resources I need to handle larger, more complex matters,” McDaniel said in the statement.
Ballard Spahr has more than 500 lawyers in 14 U.S. offices.
Ex-JPMorgan Trader’s Lawyer Says His Client Relied on Iksil
Julien Grout, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) trader indicted in connection with a $6.2 billion trading loss last year will be proven innocent, his attorney said.
Grout, who reported to Bruno Iksil, was “totally dependent on Iksil’s instructions and relied in good faith on his expertise,” Edward Little, a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Iksil, known as the London Whale because of the size of his trading portfolio, is cooperating with prosecutors and hasn’t been charged.
Grout, 35, who moved to his native France from London earlier this year, faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted. The indictment against him and Iksil’s boss, Javier Martin-Artajo, listed five charges against each of them, including securities fraud for allegedly manipulating marks on trades to conceal mounting losses.
“It is astonishing that the prosecutors are relying on Iksil’s testimony when he is the one who taught Mr. Grout how the bank was marking the portfolio, gave specific instructions on where he should mark positions, and personally approved the marks on a daily basis,” Little said in the statement.
The government’s strategy “can only be explained by the political pressure” the U.S. Justice Department faces over the trading debacle, he said.
Grout’s lawyers and prosecutors haven’t reached an agreement on whether he should be released on bail, and under what conditions, if he decides to return to the U.S. to face charges, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation, who requested anonymity because the discussions are private.
Grout is accused of mismarking prices on the derivatives portfolio. The bank’s traders “had to estimate their fair market value, based not just on unreliable dealer quotes, but also on the prices of related securities, market conditions and the traders’ judgment,” Little said.
Martin-Artajo was on vacation when prosecutors unsealed charges Aug. 14, according to a statement that week from his attorneys at Norton Rose Fulbright LLP. He turned himself in to Spanish police Aug. 27, a police official there said at the time. Martin-Artajo was released on bail in Madrid and said he was unwilling to be extradited, a spokeswoman for the National Court said.
Lista Cannon, a lawyer for Martin-Artajo at Norton Rose, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment about the indictment. Jonathan New, a partner at Baker Hostetler LLP who is representing Iskil, didn’t return a voice-mail message seeking comment.
The case is U.S. v. Martin-Artajo, 13-cr-00707, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Martin-Artajo, 13-cv-05677, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Lawyers Ejected From China Court in Trial Over Custody Death
Lawyers for the family of a businessman who died while in Communist Party custody were kicked out of court yesterday during the trial of the interrogators accused in his death, one of the lawyers said.
The court in the eastern Chinese city of Quzhou told the two lawyers to leave at midday and didn’t let them in for the afternoon session, family lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said by telephone. He and the other lawyer, Wu Pengbin, had challenged the court because it didn’t let them question the defendants, Pu said.
Prosecutors charged the six defendants, including five people from the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, with intention to inflict harm in the April 9 death of Wenzhou Industry Investment Group Co. Chief Engineer Yu Qiyi. The case has brought attention to the party’s internal discipline body, which has the power to hold party members under extra-legal detention during investigations.
“Having no chance to speak this morning, we can see basically the reality of this situation and how scared they are,” Pu said. Court officials told him that the defendants’ lawyers had already engaged in thorough questioning and the court was clear on the case, Pu said.
A phone call to the court where the trial is taking place rang unanswered yesterday. Pu said that Chinese law allows victims’ lawyers to question defendants with court permission.
Yu, 41, was also a member of Wenzhou Industry Investment’s party committee, according to a June bond prospectus filed by the state-owned company. The bond prospectus said his death “will not have a significant impact on the company’s governance structure or business activities.”
The investigators forced Yu to strip naked and dunked his head under water for more than an hour, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing court documents shown to the newspaper by Yu’s family. They stopped after realizing he wasn’t struggling anymore, the newspaper said.
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