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Wake Up Call: The Law Firms on Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods

June 19, 2017, 12:23 PM

• Inc. announced plans to buy the high-end organic grocery company Whole Foods Market Inc. in a $13.7 billion deal. Among four Big Law firms involved in the deal, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advised the Austin-based grocer and Sullivan & Cromwell advised Seattle-based Amazon. ( Am Law Daily )

• Big investment banks with workplace legal problems often turn to labor and employment lawyers at their main full-service law firms instead of to specialty firms. A recent Bloomberg BNA analysis showed full-service firms McGuire Woods and Seyfarth Shaw, which started out as worklaw firms, entering the most appearances in investment bank workplace lawsuits over a one year period, with 17 such cases each. Sheppard Mullin and employment firm Littler Mendelson tied for second place, with 10 cases apiece. ( Bloomberg BNA )

• Rachel Brand, the first woman U.S. associate attorney general, has kept a low profile since the Senate confirmed her May 18. But the former WilmerHale attorney could be in for a spotlight if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is forced to recuse himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. ( National Law Journal )

• A new Association of Corporate Counsel report finds some striking differences on how male and female in-house counsel view gender disparities in pay distributions. ( BLB )

• Shearman & Sterling added five antitrust partners from Hunton & Williams, including former top officials from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. Making the move are David Higbee, former managing partner of Hunton’s Washington, D.C., office and vice chair of its global competition practice, and D. Bruce Hoffman, who headed Hunton’s global competition practice and was previously FTC deputy director. The other partners joining include Ryan Shores, a former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Todd M. Stenerson and Djordje Petkoski. ( BLB )

• A recent decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to suspend diplomatic relations with Qatar has law firms reassessing their plans in the Middle East. ( Legal Week )

Legal Market

• As the European Union’s antitrust regulator looks set to hit Alphabet unit Google with a record 1 billion euro ($ 1.12 billion) fine for its search engine practices, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is advising the California company, while Clifford Chance and Covington & Burling are advising complainants said to include several travel websites and a French legal search engine. ( Legal Week )

• Ballard Spahr media partner Charles Tobin, who recently left Holland & Knight after 16 years because he said the firm had a policy of avoiding matters unfavorable to Trump, didn’t wait long to file a lawsuit on behalf of CNN against the FBI. ( National Law Journal )

• A former UBS Group AG compliance officer and a day trader charged by U.K. regulators with insider trading appeared in a London court for the first time to face allegations that they made 1.4 million pounds (1.8 million) illegally trading shares of Elizabeth Arden Inc. and four other companies. ( Bloomberg via BLB )


• Almost a year since Britons voted to leave the European Union, Brexit talks finally open today amid confusion over just what the U.K. government wants from the divorce. ( Bloomberg ) The EU negotiating team has decades of combined experience. ( Bloomberg )

The Trump Administration

• The Justice Department’s fraud section is looking for a replacement for compliance counsel Hui Chen, a kind of “compliance whisperer” whose job it is to bring a private sector perspective into the Justice Department. ( Bloomberg BNA via BLB )

• Pedro Freyre, chairman of law firm Akerman LLP’s international practice and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, called Trump’s announced new curbs on U.S. citizens’ ability to travel to and do business in Cuba “modest” changes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized Trump’s announcement of plans to roll back the historic rapprochement that President Barack Obama implemented near the end of his term. ( Bloomberg )

• The Trump administration has cast a hostile eye on public databases created under the Obama administration. ( National Law Journal )

Happening in SCOTUS

• The Trump administration last week took employers’ side in a Supreme Court case over workers’s rights to lodge class action lawsuits against companies. That marks a major reversal of the Obama administration’s position that workplace arbitration agreements that ban class actions violate federal labor law. ( Insurance Journal )

Laterals, Moves, Law Firm Work

• U.K. elite firm Clifford Chance hired two corporate partners in New York, getting Alice Kane, a Duane Morris partner who was former group general counsel at Zurich Insurance Group and also spent a year at Dewey & LeBoeuf. Clifford Chance also got Joseph Cosentino, who is coming back to the firm from Greenberg Traurig. ( Legal Week )

• Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe said it is tweaking its two-year old parental leave policy to allow lawyers returning from primary caregiver parental leave to set more predictable schedules, among other things. ( Am Law Daily )


• New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges recently launched an app aimed at helping nearly 5,000 lawyers worldwide who used to work at the firm to network. Weil’s app is the latest in a recent spate of Big Law alumni outreach efforts. ( Am Law Daily )

• Indiana is paying law firm McNeely Stephenson $100,000 to help deal with public records requests, most seeking emails from Vice President Mike Pence’s time as governor, including messages routed through his private account. ( Associated Press via Indianapolis Business Journal )

• A lawyer ran into problems for his Facebook exchanges with a judge who “friended” him after admiring the tie he wore to court. And other observations from a recent panel on challenges that social media pose for legal professionals. ( Legaltech News )

• Alphabet Inc.’s Google says it is creating new policies and practices to suppress terrorism-related videos, a response to U.K. lawmakers who have said the internet is a petri dish for radical ideology. ( Bloomberg )

• IBM last week released a group of applications based on its Watson artificial intelligence platform, to help financial institutions manage their regulatory obligations. ( Business Insider )

• Lyft Inc. complained to a judge that Uber Technologies moved to drag it into the larger ride-hailing company’s trade-secrets fight with Waymo two days after Lyft and the Alphabet Inc. unit announced an autonomous driving partnership. ( Bloomberg ) After Covington & Burling’s report on company culture problems at Uber, its recommendation of a leave of absence of company CEO Travis Kalanick makes just about everyone unhappy, both people that want the CEO to leave or to go. ( Bloomberg View )

Legal Education

• The former director of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law’s entrepreneurship and intellectual property clinic had his law license suspended at least three years by the Missouri Supreme Court. The court found that David Deal practiced law at the clinic for 10 years although his law license was suspended in Missouri. ( )

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Casey Sullivan.

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