The cocaine analogy is quite a good one. Because this stuff was addictive. A lot of people couldn’t resist.
The cocaine analogy is quite a good one. Because this stuff was addictive. A lot of people couldn’t resist.
Back in April, we wondered about the departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of John O’Brien, a highly regarded and well-liked corporate partner who focused on M&A work. This development captured our interest because it’s unusual for lawyers to leave the (highly lucrative) partnership of a top firm like S&C.
When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure. E.g., Carlos Spinelli-Noseda (partner left S&C after billing clients and firm for more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).
In addition, word on the street was that O’Brien was escorted from the building by security personnel. Partners are being asked to leave their firms with increasing frequency during the recession — but they’re not usually walked out by muscle.
So we decided to do a little digging.
After [Cohen and his wife Barbara] had paid their [restaurant] check, they went to fetch the car, and Mr. Cohen, a Boston fan since his days at Harvard Law, glanced down at his BlackBerry to check on the Red Sox. He drives a Subaru, a humble ride for a man who earned millions last year arranging shotgun weddings for the busted firms of Wall Street, and standing next to Barbara in the darkness, Rodge Cohen, a titan of the banking bar, struggled with his automated key, initially unable to — woop woop woop — release the lock.
Unlocking car doors by remote control — where’s a good associate when you need one?
Now, in re Subarus, we have nothing against them; they are fine cars. Some of our best friends drive Subarus. One of our co-clerks — a member of the Elect, no less — drives a Subaru Forester. The judge for whom we clerked — Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (9th Cir.), a top feeder judge — used to drive a purple Subaru (affectionately nicknamed “Grimace” by his clerks).
But as we know from the judicial pay controversy, federal judges don’t get compensated like partners at Sullivan & Cromwell. And Cohen is no ordinary S&C partner — he’s the chairman of the firm and its top rainmaker, generating tens of millions in business every year. A Subaru is shockingly downmarket for him. We realize that true wealth doesn’t have to advertise itself, and six-figure cars are for the nouveau riche, but this still seems a tad extreme.
More to the point, why is Rodge Cohen even driving himself? Wouldn’t it be more efficient for him to have a chauffeur-driven Maybach — john quinn, holla — so he can spend every waking minute on the phone, negotiating billion-dollar bank mergers? Isn’t it a waste of the brilliant Cohen’s brain cells to have him paying attention to yield signs when he could instead be thinking about yield curves?
More tidbits from the Rodge Cohen profile, along with commentary, after the jump.
Today the winners of Lawyer of the Day honors are obvious. Congratulations to Arthur Cutillo, Michael Kimelman, and Jason Goldbfarb, three attorneys who stand accused of involvement in the infamous Galleon Group insider trading scheme.
Both Cutillo and Kimelman have distinguished pedigrees, with ties to two top firms. Cutillo (left), a holder of an M.S. in chemical engineering as well as a J.D. (both from Villanova), was an associate at the white-shoe firm of Ropes & Gray. Kimelman (right), a partner at Incremental Capital LLC, once worked as an associate at super-prestigious Sullivan & Cromwell.
Check out Cutillo’s firm bio and Kimelman’s LinkedIn profile over here.
The third charged lawyer, Jason Goldfarb, apparently worked as a personal injury lawyer in Brooklyn. He allegedly served as a conduit of information between Cutillo and Zvi Goffer — the former Galleon employee apparently referred to as “Octopussy” at the SEC, because “he had his arms in so many insider” trading schemes.
More on our three honorees, after the jump.
If you have more info, please email us. Thanks.
UPDATE (10:00 AM): According to Bloomberg, the FBI has arrested Arthur Cutillo (pictured). He is no longer on the Ropes & Gray website, but you can find his bio via Google Cache. Interestingly enough, he was an IP litigator, not a corporate attorney.
CNBC is now reporting that a Ropes & Gray employee allegedly provided inside information about various “going private” transactions the firm was involved in. Some of these transactions apparently involved companies heavily dependent upon intellectual property, such as technology companies.
UPDATE (10:10 AM): In case the Google Cache entry is removed, we have posted Arthur Cutillo’s bio after the jump. He graduated from Rutgers (undergrad) and Villanova (law), and he worked at Merck before joining Ropes.
UPDATE (10:15 AM): Here is a statement from Ropes & Gray:
We are deeply disappointed to learn about this situation, which suggests an extreme breach of this person’s duty of trust to our clients and to the firm. We cannot comment in detail on an ongoing investigation but we are moving quickly to protect our clients and are cooperating fully with authorities.
UPDATE (12:15 PM): U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (S.D.N.Y.) is giving a press conference discussing the charges. One of the other individuals charged, Michael Kimelman, once worked as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell.
UPDATE (4:30 PM): We’ve honored Artie Cutillo, Michael Kimelman, and a third lawyer, Jason Goldfarb, as our Lawyers of the Day.
Art Cutillo’s Ropes bio and Mike Kimelman’s LinkedIn profile, after the jump.
Seven Arrested In Insider Trading Case [Dealbreaker]
More than a decade ago, Cory Maples of Alabama murdered two people. After an evening of heavy drinking, playing pool, and riding around in a friend’s car, Maples killed two friends, shooting them execution-style.
According to court documents, he signed a confession, “stating that he: (1) shot both victims around midnight; (2) had drunk six or seven beers by about 8 p.m., but ‘didn’t feel very drunk’; and (3) did not know why he decided to kill the two men. Faced with this confession, Maples’s trial attorneys argued that Maples was guilty of murder, but not capital murder.”
A jury found Maples guilty and sentenced him to death.
Maples appealed his capital murder conviction with the help of attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell:
Maples subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32, claiming, inter alia, that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or present evidence of: (1) Maples’s mental health history; (2) his intoxication at the time of the crime; and (3) his alcohol and drug history.
The trial court dismissed Maples’ Rule 32 petition, and sent notice of the decision to the attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell and to local Alabama counsel. There was a 42-day period for filing a notice of appeal, but all the lawyers involved dropped the ball on the case, PepsiCo-style.
So what’s the explanation for S&C’s missing the deadline for filing an appeal?
This year has been an interesting one so far for Sullivan & Cromwell. There has been happy news, like firm chairman H. Rodgin Cohen — banking M&A god, and a contender for a top Treasury Department post, before he withdrew — being named Dealmaker of the Year. There has been tragic news, like the killing of one S&C secretary (and the wounding of a second).
This latest piece of news, like the pushing back of start dates to November 2 for incoming associates, falls somewhere in between. Above the Law has learned that John O’Brien — a corporate, er, “general practice” partner at S&C, where he handled “mergers and acquisitions, investment management, [and] corporate and securities matters” — has left the firm. He joined the firm in 1992 and made partner in 2001.
Multiple sources report that O’Brien’s departure was involuntary. Apparently he was removed from the building by security personnel, sometime last week. His removal came as a shock to many. According to one S&C tipster, O’Brien was known around 125 Broad Street as “a well-respected attorney and incredibly nice individual” — one of the nicest people at S&C.
(That may not be saying much, given the firm’s reputation for hiring folks like the infamous DB. But O’Brien was also highly esteemed for his legal skills at the uber-prestigious, super-successful firm, home to many great legal minds.)
Regardless of the exact reasons for John O’Brien’s departure — if you have information, please email us — it is confirmed that he is no longer with the firm.
He no longer appears on the external S&C website. Nor is he on the firm intranet, sources at the firm inform us. We called his former direct-dial number and received no answer. We called the main S&C switchboard and asked to speak with him. After placing us on hold for a long time, the receptionist returned to inform us that O’Brien “is no longer with the company” (and that she had no forwarding information for him).
It was all very reminiscent of the Carlos Spinelli-Noseda situation. As you may recall, Spinelli-Noseda — like O’Brien, a young, highly regarded, very well-liked corporate partner at S&C — mysteriously disappeared from the firm. Several months later, it came to light that Spinelli-Noseda defrauded clients and the firm (to the tune of $500,000, through submission of fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses).
Last night, we reached out to H. Rodgin Cohen and to a firm spokesperson for comment. Neither has gotten back to us yet; if and when we hear anything, we’ll let you know. If you have inside info, please email us, or call (212-334-1871, ext. 9).
More about John J. O’Brien and Sullivan & Cromwell, including cached versions of his firm and Martindale-Hubbell bios, after the jump.
Back in July, we were the first to wonder about the mysterious departure from Sullivan & Cromwell of Carlos Spinelli-Noseda, a rising star at the über-prestigious (and profitable) law firm. Some commenters viewed our interest in his departure as unseemly, prying, or reflecting bias against S&C.
We don’t mean to gloat — okay, maybe just a little — but we’ve been vindicated by recent revelations. From a report by Anthony Lin in the New York Law Journal:
A former Sullivan & Cromwell partner has resigned from the bar for billing his clients and firm more than $500,000 in fraudulent travel and entertainment expenses.
Carlos J. Spinelli-Noseda, a banking and finance specialist who joined Sullivan & Cromwell straight out of Harvard Law School in 1994 and became a partner in 2003, was facing a disciplinary investigation over a pattern of improper billing dating from roughly July 1998 to February 2008.
In a June 3 affidavit of resignation he submitted to the disciplinary committee of the First Department, Mr. Spinelli-Noseda admitted he could not successfully defend himself against charges of professional misconduct. Such resignations are frequently tendered when further proceedings are almost certain to lead to disbarment.
Read more, after the jump.
Here are two items. First, from a tipster:
If I recall correctly, Sullivan & Cromwell sent out a memo in December or January saying that even though they paid the “special bonuses” in December, they still intended to pay additional profit-sharing bonuses in February. [February is over] and as far as I know, not a word from S&C. Can you guys please make a big deal over this?
The tipster’s memory is slightly off. From chairman H. Rodgin Cohen’s earlier bonus memo:
[T]he Firm will pay senior associates compensation in addition to salary and bonus through our new Senior Associate Supplemental Bonus Plan (“the Plan”). We have decided to accelerate payments under this new Plan to result in the following [market-matching bonuses] being paid on December 14 to our senior associates, with final supplemental payments to be made in the Spring of ’08.
We are now officially into spring 2008. So ATL hereby “make[s] a big deal over this.” Has S&C paid the supplemental bonuses to its senior associates? If so, can someone please give us the skinny?
Second, here’s an interesting rumor of a partner departure from S&C, from a different tipster….
Spring! Cherry blossoms, opening day, and pedigreed lawyers uniting in marriage. We’re pleased to be back with another installment of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch, featuring these three impressive couples:
More on our finalists, after the jump.