Bloomberg News

Covington Adds Guzy to Environmental Practice: Business of Law

December 16, 2013

Gary Guzy, who was the deputy director and general counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is joining Covington & Burling LLP in January. Guzy, who also served as general counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration, is joining the firm’s environmental, clean-energy, public policy and government affairs practices.

According to a statement from the firm, Guzy helped develop the Obama Administration’s environmental, public health, and clean-energy agenda, including working on the negotiations that resulted in improving motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Gary brings exceptional skill in dealing with complex environmental issues and a wealth of experience in developing strategic partnerships and working with the diverse constituencies necessary to resolve the most challenging public controversies” Lawrence Hobel, co-chairman of Covington’s environmental practice, said in the statement.

Guzy will work with E. Donald Elliott, who joined Covington last year and served as general counsel of the EPA under President George H.W. Bush.

Health Care Lawyer Bulleit Joins Ropes & Gray Washington Office

Thomas N. Bulleit joined Ropes & Gray LLP and will head the firm’s health-care practice in Washington. He was previously a partner in the Washington office of Hogan Lovells LLP.

Bulleit represents clients on complicated regulatory matters across multiple industries, including academic medical centers, pharmaceuticals, biomedicine and medical devices, according to a statement from the firm.

“For 25 years, Tom Bulleit has guided clients through major legal developments in the dynamic health-care industry,” Anne Phillips Ogilby, co-leader of the firm’s health-care practice, said in the statement. “His deep experience and knowledge strengthens our ability to serve the needs of our diverse clients on their most significant regulatory and transactional matters.”

Former U.S. Air Force Counsel David Robbins Joins Shulman Rogers

David B. Robbins has joined Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker PA as a partner and chairman of the firm’s government contracts practice. He previously worked in the Air Force general counsel’s office, where he held a number of high-level roles, including acting deputy general counsel and assistant deputy general counsel.

During his government tenure, Robbins served as the Air Force’s principal point of contact for procurement-fraud matters, advising senior uniformed and civilian leadership at all levels of the organization. He also served as the primary in-house counsel for the Air Force on procurement fraud cases brought by the U.S. Justice Department.

On an acting basis, Robbins was one of three full-time suspending and debarring officials in the federal government, with the responsibility to judge the responsibility of government contractors for continued eligibility for contract awards.

In his new role, Robbins will counsel government contractors on issues relating to the formation, administration and termination of prime contracts and subcontracts with federal, state and local entities and will counsel investors, insurers and equity sources in government contracts to safeguard their investments.

Don Rogers, chairman of the firm’s business and financial-services department, said in a statement that Robbins’s “leadership, contracting and procurement legal skills and military department background will provide invaluable counsel to our government contractors as well as our business and financial services clients.”

Before attending law school, Robbins graduated with distinction from Air War College, the senior professional military education school of the U.S. Air Force.

Perkins Coie Adds Franchise Attorney Mazero in Dallas Office

Joyce Mazero joined the Dallas office of Perkins Coie LLP as a partner in the firm’s franchising and distribution, food and beverage and retail industries and consumer-products practices. Mazero was most recently a partner with Haynes and Boone LLP (1189L:US) in Dallas.

Steve Smith, managing partner of Perkins Coie’s Dallas office, said in a statement that “Joyce is an internationally recognized attorney and well-respected in the food-service, restaurant and retail industries as a strong advocate and strategic business adviser.”

Mazero serves on the boards of trustees of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation and the College of Merchandising, Hospitality & Tourism at the University of North Texas. She is a past member of the board of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Advocacy Alliance, Promise House and the Advisory Board of the New York-based fashion design house Nina McLemore.

Lawsuit News

Worker Stock Suits Get Supreme Court Review in Fifth Third Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to use a case involving Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB:US) to decide how easy it will be for workers to sue when their retirement plans lose money because of a drop in the employer’s stock price.

The justices on Friday said they will hear an appeal from Fifth Third, a Cincinnati-based lender whose shares plunged more than 97 percent from July 2007 to February 2009 as it posted losses stemming from bad loans.

Fifth Third is fighting a lawsuit filed by workers who owned company stock in their retirement plans and say the lender failed to protect them from losses. They accuse Fifth Third and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Kabat of artificially inflating the stock price in 2007 by hiding the riskiness of the company’s loan portfolio.

The court will address issues that have arisen repeatedly in the fallout from the subprime-loan crisis. The high court previously declined to hear similar cases.

Like many 401(k) plans, Fifth Third’s gave workers a menu of investment options, including one that consisted almost entirely of the company’s own stock. The workers say plan administrators should have stopped offering Fifth Third stock as a choice.

Fifth Third contends that lawsuits are permissible only if the company was in a “dire situation” and plan administrators did nothing to shield stock-owning employees. The case turns on the U.S. Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The case, which the court will resolve by July, is Fifth Third v. Dudenhoeffer, 12-751.

For more, click here.

Visa, MasterCard $5.7 Billion Swipe Fee Accord Approved

Visa Inc. (V:US) and MasterCard Inc. (MA:US) won approval of a $5.7 billion settlement ending years of litigation with U.S. merchants over allegations that credit card swipe fees are improperly fixed.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, New York, said that he was satisfied with the settlement, estimated to be the largest-ever U.S. antitrust accord.

“For the first time, merchants will be empowered to expose hidden banks fees to their customers, educate them about those fees and use that information to influence their customers’ choices of payment methods,” Gleeson wrote in his Dec. 13 ruling.

Once owned by groups of major banks, Foster City, California-based Visa and Purchase, New York-based MasterCard have defended themselves for decades against legal claims that they operated price-fixing schemes. Swipe, or interchange, fees are set by Visa and MasterCard and paid by merchants when consumers use credit or debit cards.

The card firms separated from the banks through initial public offerings in 2006 and 2008. Merchants filed a class-action suit against the card firms and major banks in 2005. They later alleged that the card firms continued to fix prices with the banks even after the IPOs.

Lawyers representing merchants nationwide announced the settlement in July 2012. Once worth as much as $7.25 billion, the settlement is valued at about $5.7 billion as of August as a result of reductions for about 8,000 merchants that dropped out of the damages portion.

Dozens of large retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US) and Target Corp. (TGT:US), as well as major airlines, health insurers and other consumer businesses, criticized the accord. Some claimed the amount should have been higher and that a legal release preventing future suits was written too broadly.

A court-appointed expert said merchants might not be able to prove their case at trial and were probably better off taking the settlement.

The case is In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, 05-md-01720, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Toyota to Begin Settlement Talks Over Acceleration Suits

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM:US) and lawyers pursuing claims alleging the company’s vehicles suddenly accelerated, causing death or injury, will begin an “intensive settlement process” to resolve the lawsuits, a judge said.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, California, on Dec. 12 issued an order halting the suits after Toyota and the lawyers asked for time to try settling the cases. Selna was scheduled to hear the first trial in March of about 200 federal claims consolidated before him.

“Participation in the intensive settlement process is open to all plaintiffs,” Selna said in the order. “Cases that do not resolve during the initial settlement conference shall be set for a formal mediation.”

The move toward settlement comes less than two months after Toyota lost its first trial (TM:US) in a lawsuit claiming an electronic defect can cause its vehicles to speed up uncontrollably. Toyota settled after an Oklahoma City jury in October ordered the company to pay $3 million.

Selna set a hearing for Jan. 14 for any comment on the settlement process. Settlement conferences would begin in February, he said.

The process will also include cases consolidated in state court in Los Angeles, said Carly Schaffner, a spokeswoman for the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker.

The carmaker recalled more than 10 million vehicles for problems related to unintended acceleration in 2009 and 2010, starting with a September 2009 announcement that it was recalling 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because of a defect that might cause floor mats to jam accelerator pedals. The company later recalled vehicles over defects involving the pedals themselves.

The recalls led to lawsuits claiming that defects harmed the value of Toyota vehicles or caused accidents leading to death and injury. Toyota settled suits brought by car owners who claimed economic losses for about $1.6 billion.

The federal cases are combined as In re Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 8:10-ml-02151, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

For more, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net

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


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