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Feast or Famine Market Threatens Big Law’s Prestige Bubble

Sept. 17, 2020, 5:51 PM

Here are the day’s top coronavirus stories from the team at Bloomberg Law:

  • FEAST OR FAMINE: There have been signs recently that the gap is widening between the richest Big Law firms and the rest of the pack. But the news this week—Wall Street firms unlocking war chests to boost partner pay and making splashy associate bonuses—brought that trend into sharp perspective. Now the market for associate compensation is suddenly facing a long-rumored moment of reckoning. What “Above the Law” called “COVID-19 bonus wars” could cause firms to rethink their position in the market.
  • UNIVERSITY INSURANCE POLICIES: Colleges are turning to courts to compel insurers to provide coverage for coronavirus-related costs and income losses. Four schools—Rockhurst University, Maryville University, Benedictine College, and the University of St. Thomas—are the first colleges to sue their insurers after being denied coverage under their commercial liability policies. Those complaints represent a tiny fraction of the more than 1,100 insurance cases stemming from pandemic coverage disputes. The small number of lawsuits may indicate that schools are wary of mounting legal hurdles in the pursuit of payouts, but a few rulings in policyholders’ favor in select jurisdictions could lead to more claims, attorneys say.
  • BONUS BOOST: Milbank has matched the pandemic-related associate bonuses handed out by Davis Polk & Wardwell earlier this week with a further 50% payout to lawyers who have worked extra long hours during the virus crisis. The firm’s chair, Scott Edelman, wrote the bonuses were paid “in light of our success” during the pandemic and out of gratitude for the associates’ work despite “unprecedented challenges.”

Editor’s Top Picks

Asthmatic Worker Gets Covid-Related Stay Against in-Person Work
An asthmatic employee may work from home due to the pandemic, and their Massachusetts employer can’t force them to return to the office, a federal judge ruled, barring the worker’s termination for at least 60 days.

U.S. Oil Fund Faces Merged Suits Over Covid-19, Price War Risks
Nutit A.S. suffered the largest alleged losses and will be the lead plaintiff in consolidated class complaints alleging United States Oil Fund LP kept important Covid-19 and price war information from investors, a New York federal court ruled.

Eviction Filings Fall in Many U.S. Cities After CDC Moratorium
Less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed new restrictions on landlords, eviction filings have fallen sharply. The second federal eviction moratorium, which lasts through the end of the year, went into effect on September 4.

New Watchdog Probe of Jobless-Aid System Hints at Long-Term Fix
The U.S. Labor Department watchdog is developing a comprehensive report on how some of the country’s most-populous states have processed unemployment insurance claims during the pandemic, a study poised to inform legislative discussions about whether to reinstate enhanced benefits.

Execution for Carjacking, Murder Will Go Forward, 11th Cir. Rules
William LeCroy Jr. failed to convince the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday to postpone his Sept. 22 execution for a 2001 rape and murder on the grounds that the outbreak has recently kept him from meeting with two of his three attorneys.

Nursing Homes That Cut Covid Infections to Get $2 Billion Boost
Nursing homes will be paid $2 billion over the next four months if they have lower Covid-19 infection and mortality rates than their local communities in a program that will test a new federal government framework for measuring quality in health care.

Vaxart Board Let Fund Insider Trade on Covid Vaccine: Suit
Vaxart Inc.'s board was hit with a Delaware lawsuit claiming it helped a hedge fund linked to it, Armistice Capital LLC, make hundreds of millions on insider trades around news that Vaxart would be getting federal funding for its work on a vaccine.

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Editor’s Note: The Bloomberg Law news team has been closely covering the legal, regulatory, business, and tax implications of the coronavirus pandemic. This daily email highlights the top stories of the day, across practice areas. To unsubscribe, please adjust your Bloomberg Law newsletter settings. For assistance, contact our help desk at 888-560-2529 or help@bloomberglaw.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Ward in Washington at mward@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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