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Wake Up Call: Suit Accuses Sidley of Aiding $1.3 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Dec. 4, 2019, 12:59 PM
  • A $500 million lawsuit filed in California Superior Court this week accuses Sidley Austin, eight other law firms, plus several lawyers, of contributing to a $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme that targeted retirees and retirement account funds. The suit filed by the receiver representing thousands of ripped-off investors, among other things accuses Sidley and its Washington partner Neal Sullivan of heavy involvement in the legal maneuvers of Woodbridge Group of Companies. (

  • Woodbridge was the California company behind the scheme. Its CEO, Robert Shapiro, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in October after pleading guilty to mail and wire fraud conspiracy and income tax evasion. (BN va BLAW)

  • In more bad news for Sidley Austin, a Brooklyn federal judge disqualified its partner James Cole yesterday as lawyer defending Huawei against charges that the Chinese company violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Federal prosecutors have argued that Cole, as a former deputy attorney general, had access to classified matters related to its case. (BN via BLB)

  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP is launching a Hong Kong office staffed by lawyers it grabbed from Clifford Chance. (Asian Lawyer via

  • O’Melveny & Myers is getting Michael Dreeben, a former deputy U.S. solicitor general and Supreme Court heavyweight, as a partner in Washington in the firm’s appellate and white-collar practices. (BLAW via BLB)

  • Stroock & Stroock & Lavan helped 197 Congressional Democrats prepare their amicus brief in support of June Medical Services’ U.S. Supreme Court challenge to a Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. (

  • As the House impeachment process enters a dangerous phase for Donald Trump, the president is getting limited input from his personal attorneys. (WaPo)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Barnes & Thornburg added a 17-member life sciences patent group, including nine partners, one associate, two patent agents, and an intellectual property technical analyst, plus four paralegals. Arriving from Brinks Gilson and Lione, the group is spread across three new offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Salt Lake City, Utah, plus one partner in Chicago. It’s led by IP attorney Allen Baum, who becomes managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg’s Raleigh office, and IP attorney William Boudreaux, who becomes a partner in Ann Arbor. (

  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hired international trade and investment attorney Jeanine McGuinness as a partner in Washington. She joins from Davis Polk & Wardwell, where she spent about 20 years, most recently as counsel. (

  • Another Donald Trump judicial nominee tagged as unqualified by the American Bar Association looks headed for confirmation by the Republican-led Senate. (BLAW via BLB)

  • Greenspoon Marder launched a diversity council led by its chief diversity officer and partner Myrna Maysonet. (

  • Cleveland, Ohio-based litigation firm Ulmer & Berne LLP, with about 160 attorneys across five offices in the Midwest and Florida, acquired trial boutique Kaufman & Company. The deal gives Ulmer 10 new attorneys plus offices in New York and Washington. (Crain’s Cleveland Business)


  • K&L Gates client Barbri, Inc., a portfolio company of New York-based private equity firm Leeds Equity Partners, LLC, acquired Kaplan Altior, a major provider of legal training courses that claims 750 law firm clients. The seller was Kaplan, Inc. No terms were disclosed. (CityBizList)

  • In a new “case study,” litigation funder Validity Finance said its “eight-figure” investment in insurance recovery boutique Weisbrod, Matteis & Copley allows that firm to take on commercial disputes against insurance carriers on a contingency basis. (

  • The Justice Department hired a top Republican House lawyer, Kristin Shapiro, a former Williams & Connolly litigator, as attorney adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel. (National Law Journal)

Laterals, Moves, In-house, Promotions

  • Warner Music Group Corp. promoted in-house attorney Jon Glass to senior vice president and head of digital legal affairs. Glass, who joined Warner in 2010, has previously been in-house at Sony Music Entertainment and spent time at Seyfarth Shaw and Morrison & Foerster. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Lowenstein Sandler added investment management veteran Max Karpel as a partner in New York. Karpel was most recently chief operating officer and in-house counsel to a family office and foundation. According to his LinkedIn, he previously spent 13 years at Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen, including as a partner, and close to five years as a corporate associate at Skadden. (

  • Blank Rome hired matrimonial and family law attorney Christine M. Otero in Los Angeles as an associate. She arrives from Mansouri Law Offices. (

  • New York City real estate tax boutique Ditchik & Ditchik hired tax lawyer Steve Tishco, a former senior counsel in the NYC law department’s tax and bankruptcy litigation division. He joins as a partner. (

Legal Actions, Decisions

  • Armstrong Teasdale’s mandatory partner retirement policy doesn’t violate federal employment-bias law because partners aren’t covered employees, a court ruled. (BLAW via BLB)

  • DLA Piper represented the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which won dismissal in California Superior Court of defamation and related claims filed by an employee of Caltech subcontractor ManTech International. (

Legal Education

  • Law school graduates’ median debt upon graduation exceeded their first-year earnings for 94% of law schools, according to a report based on new U.S. data. (

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at