Citigroup

The Dewey & LeBoeuf drama continues to unfold. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there have been a few notable recent developments. Citibank just filed a vigorous response to allegations by Steven Otillar, a former Dewey partner, that Citi colluded with Dewey to take advantage of individual partners. Meanwhile, three former leaders of the firm — former chairman Steven Davis, former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and former CFO Joel Sanders — have filed objections to the global settlement with former partners.

It’s not a pretty picture. And here’s what we’re wondering: Could it happen to another major law firm, sometime in the next twelve months?

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What is the future outlook for Biglaw? The Magic 8 Ball is not optimistic.

Last month, we wrote about a less-than-cheery report from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, the largest lender to U.S. law firms. The bottom line of that report for law firms: “With weak demand growth and the continuation of expense growth, it is likely that expenses will continue to grow at a faster pace than revenue, squeezing margins and making it tricky to achieve even low single-digit profit growth.”

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there’s a new report out from our friends at Citi, and it also sounds pessimistic notes. It concerns the confidence levels of law firm managing partners.

What are the powers-that-be in Biglaw worried about right now? Let’s find out….

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As we mentioned in the Labor Day edition of Morning Docket, there’s some interesting news on the Dewey & LeBoeuf front. The one former Dewey partner being sued by Citibank for allegedly defaulting on a capital loan — energy lawyer Steven Otillar, now a partner in the Houston office of Akin Gump — is opposing Citi’s attempt to collect on the debt, by arguing that he was “fraudulently induced” to borrow the money in question.

How much are we talking about? How does the debt compare to Otillar’s compensation while at Dewey? And what are Otillar’s specific allegations about “fraudulent inducement”?

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Back in the day, Ted Kennedy could cheat his ass off.

* ‘Unprecedented’ cheating at Harvard. Nice to know that Ted Kennedy’s spirit is alive and well in Cambridge. [Harvard Crimson]

* Court accidentally posts secret settlement. That’ll teach these courts from keeping secrets. [Boston Globe]

* Here is an appropriate response to a law firm brochure. [Lawprofblawg]

* Former News of the World lawyer arrested. You know, the problem with the News of the World scandal is that it’s one of those things that happens somewhere else and so Americans don’t care. Americans like me. [Wall Street Journal]

* Cincinnati law profs pass around the collection plate and come up with a scholarship for students. [Tax Prof Blawg]

* Citibank settled with its shareholders for being buying bad assets. In other news, Citibank bought a lot of bad assets. [Dealbreaker]

The fable of the ant and the grasshopper may have lessons for the world of large law firms.

As regular readers of Above the Law well know, most major law firms — with a few notable exceptions — did not pay spring or mid-year bonuses in 2012. Our associate readers generally viewed this news with disappointment, while our partner readers had less of a problem with it.

But perhaps even associates should have been supportive of their firms’ decisions not to pay spring bonuses. Storm clouds are gathering over the law firm world. So says a recent report by Biglaw’s biggest bankers, over at Citigroup….

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Law firm financials can be shrouded in mystery. Sure, the American Lawyer releases its closely watched and highly influential Am Law 100 rankings each year, which shed some light on the subject. But these numbers are not Gospel truth, and sometimes they get restated — which is what happened last month to Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Making a material misrepresentation to the American Lawyer doesn’t violate the securities laws. Making a material misrepresentation in connection with the purchase or sale of any security — well, that’s more problematic.

Let’s take a closer look at a subject we mentioned last night and again this morning, namely, the offering memorandum for Dewey’s 2010 private placement of $125 million in bonds….

Note: we’ve added UPDATES, after the jump.

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The law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf, which is currently fighting for its life, might have good news to report — and we’re happy to share it with you. It seems that LeBoeuf is not yet cooked.

As we’ve previously mentioned, tomorrow, April 30, was supposed to be the deadline for Dewey to reach a new deal with its syndicate of bank lenders. The firm owes its banks a reported $75 million pursuant to a $100 million revolving line of credit.

So what’s the latest — and relatively upbeat — news about Dewey?

UPDATE (4:30 PM): Additional, less cheerful Dewey updates — about the talks with Greenberg Traurig, and about embattled ex-chairman Steven H. Davis — have been added after the jump.

UPDATE (6:00 PM): More Dewey debt news — good news, happily — has been added below.

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Today we’ll give you a double dose of Dewey. This morning we published an eloquent email from a Dewey paralegal, which looked at the story from a human-interest perspective. Now we shall return to the business aspects of the crisis.

Last week, we mentioned that tax partners Fred Gander and Hershel Wein were in talks to leave Dewey. Those talks have come to fruition: Gander is heading to KPMG, where he will lead its U.S. tax practice for Europe and the Middle East, and Wein is joining him there.

Now let’s look at the big picture: Dewey’s looming debt deadline, and the possible rescue by Greenberg Traurig….

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About two weeks ago, we covered reports about Dewey & LeBoeuf possibly shedding some of its overseas offices. We noted at the time, however, that the reports were vague, and we added that some D&L sources denied the existence of plans for closing any specific foreign office.

Well, the reports are getting increasingly detailed. Word on the street is that D&L might shutter three of its offices in the Middle East. And the firm’s Moscow office is reportedly being courted by other major U.S. law firms.

Which offices are being considered for closure? And who are Dewey’s suitors in Moscow?

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(Plus more about Dewey’s loan covenants.)”

Judge Jed Rakoff

It is commonplace for settlements to include no binding admission of liability. A settlement is by definition a compromise. We know of no precedent that supports the proposition that a settlement will not be found to be fair, adequate, reasonable, or in the public interest unless liability has been conceded or proved and is embodied in the judgment. We doubt whether it lies within a court’s proper discretion to reject a settlement on the basis that liability has not been conclusively determined.

Having considered the various explanations given by the district court for its refusal to permit the settlement, we conclude that the S.E.C. and Citigroup have a strong likelihood of success in their joint effort to overturn the district court’s ruling.

– A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a per curiam opinion granting a stay pending appeal in the SEC’s case against Citigroup.

(A quick refresher on this case, after the jump.)

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