Given that The Am Law Daily can only cover so much ground during the course of a week, we've compiled this handy digest of legal stories you might have missed in the first installment of what we expect will be a recurring feature.
BAD BANKS: We suppose it makes sense that the same week that saw Hector Santsthe former head of Britains Financial Services Authoritynamed the new compliance head at Barclays and former U.S. Department of Treasury official Robert Werner tapped by HSBC as its new head of financial crime compliance, also saw U.S. regulators taking aim at wayward financial services institutions. Cahill Gordon & Reindel, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Sullivan & Cromwell took the lead for HSBC on its record-breaking $1.9 billion fine to settle money laundering allegations. The U.S. Department of Justice was forced to defend the deal, which came the same week that another British bank, Standard Chartered (also advised by S&C, as well as Slaughter and May), agreed to settle Iranian money transfer claims by reaching a $327 million deal with several U.S. regulators. On Friday, Swiss banking giant UBS was reportedly close to reach its own $1 billion rate-rigging settlement, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal.
DETROIT BLUES: The Motor City, it appears, will not run out of cash and careen into bankruptcy. The Detroit City Council voted 5 to 4 this week to approve a controversial $300,000 legal services contract for Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone to advise on a recovery plan, which asks for $30 million in state aid to stabilize the city's municipal finances. The city council had rejected the contract last month over concerns about a potential conflict of interest by the firm, leading Michigan political leaders to begin making plans for a managed Chapter 9 filing by Detroit. (In a separate development with potential implications for the struggling city, Michigan legislators this week passed an emergency management law dictating the terms under which the state would step in to assist financially strapped local governments.)
POISON PROBE: The body of Yasser Arafat was exhumed late last month amid a posthumous investigation launched by French prosecutors into whether radioactive poisoning caused the former Palestinian leaders death in 2004. Wired has an interesting story this week examining the possible connection between cigarettes and traces of polonium-210 detected among Arafats personal effects. Londons Carter-Ruck has teamed up with French firm Fischer, Tandeau de Marsac, Sur & Associates to advise Arafats widow Suha in connection with the poisoning probe, according to a report earlier this year by British publication The Lawyer.
SPY STORY: This is not polonium-210's first turn in the limelight. The highly radioactive isotope was deemed responsible for killing former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 after he unwittingly ingested the substance. Testimony gathered during a U.K. government inquest released this week implicates the Russian government in the death of Litvinenko, who, evidence suggests, was working for British intelligence agency MI6 at the time of his death. Hugh Davies of Londons Essex Court Chambers is serving as counsel to the inquiry.
MOTHER RUSSIA: The Russian Federation announced this week that its own investigative committee has filed new corruption charges against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother. The latest charges against Navalny, a lawyer, were announced shortly before a planned protest in Moscow that has been banned by the authorities. The Am Law Daily reported this summer on what the charges against Navalny might mean for Am Law 100 firms with offices in Russia. In other Russian legal news, a Moscow court accepted the guilty plea of an ex-policeman implicated in the 2006 murder of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya, whose son criticized the deal.
BACK IN THE USSR: A 303-page report released this week by a Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom team led by litigation partnerand former White House counselGregory Craig has found that the disputed trial of former Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko was fair but flawed, according to the NLJ. The Ukrainian government's Justice Ministry hired Skadden to review the circumstances of Tymoshenko's conviction on charges that she had abused her power. Ukrainian lawmakers, who scuffled Thursday after the report's release, are split into factions over whether the country should forge closer ties to the West or remain within Russia's sphere of influence.
DISORDER IN THE COURT: While English law may be preferred when doing M&A deals in Russiawhich saw the largest such transaction in the countrys history this weekit seems almost every U.K. lawyer practicing these days is angling for a well-heeled Russian client or elsewhere abroad. That, at least, is the theme of this lengthy story from The Spectator, which takes a close look at the current state of the British legal system.
GREEK TRAGEDY: Its not news that Greece is in bad financial shape, with the countrys descent into economic and societal disarray well chronicled in recent years. Now, though, the cradle of Western civilization has received Eurozone approval for the last tranche of bailout funds it needs to keep itself quasi-functional. Legal Week reports that Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Clifford Chance, and Linklaters are advising on the latest bond buyback plan.
ISLAND INTRIGUE: Chinas super-rich may be feeling down as a result of the world's ongoing economic malaise, but the countrys military is flexing its muscles by flying planes and sending surveillance ships to the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China and Japan are locked in an intense dispute over who owns the islands, which could contain oil reserves. Sibling publication The Asian Lawyer reported in September that lawyers at Am Law 100 firms with offices in Asia are fretting over what the continued ill will between the two nations might mean for business.
FACE THE FUTURE: Billionaire technology investor Peter Thiel, who began his career as an associate at S&C, has been teaching a class about start-ups at his alma mater Stanford. Thiel recently spoke about the future of legal technology during a guest lecture at Stanford Law School. Blake Masters, a law student who worked with Thiel at his Founders Fund (which The New Yorker covered in detail last year), transcribed Thiels comments and posted them on his blog about the course. Masters is also a cofounder of legal software firm Judicata, which this month received a $2 million investment from Thiel and a group of other venture capitalists.
LUXE LAWYERS: A few years back, The Am Law Daily scrolled through the Forbes 400 to find out who the richest lawyers in America were. Bloomberg debuted its own Billionaires Index earlier this year to try and snatch the wealth rankings title from Forbes, and now the news service reveals its own top five: S. Robson Walton, Richard Kinder, Richard LeFrak, Randa Duncan Williams, and Robert Rowling.
COUNTRY CHRISTMAS: When it comes to holiday parties among the law firm set, no one does it like high-profile, Houston-based plaintiffs lawyer W. Mark Lanier, whose party this year attracted 8,000 guests and featured performances by husband-and-wife country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, according to sibling publication Texas Lawyer. Other firms like Manatt, Phelps & Phillips are known for their somewhat nontraditionalbut always enjoyableholiday e-cards.