Wall Street

Sarbanes Oxley for Dummies Sarbox SOX book.jpgThe constitutionality of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, was recently upheld — decision available here (PDF) — by a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit. But those who challenged the Board’s legitimacy are fighting on.
The appellants will either seek rehearing en banc in the D.C. Circuit or certiorari from the Supreme Court. In their efforts, expect them to draw support from the forceful dissent by judicial superstar Brett Kavanaugh (who is, by the way, familiar with this fine website).
If appellants seek succor from the SCOTUS, their pleas may fall upon sympathetic ears. From our colleague, former Skadden and Latham corporate lawyer John Carney, over at Dealbreaker:

Perhaps the most ominous sign for the PCAOB is the fact that Judge Kavanaugh clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who would probably hold the swing vote if the case went to the Supreme Court. His dissenting opinion seems tailor-made to provoke the conservative wing of the court into striking down the board. Unless Congress acts to amend it, we’d bet the autonomous PCAOB is headed for extinction.

You can read the rest of his analysis — which will take you “back to Con Law and the halcyon days of youth,” in the words of one Dealbreaker commenter — over here.
Short Sarbanes-Oxley’s Accounting Board [Dealbreaker]
Free Enterprise Fund v. PBAOB (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit]
Sell Sarbanes-Oxley [New York Sun]
D.C. Circuit Affirms Constitutionality of Accounting Oversight Board [WSJ Law Blog]
Will a Lawsuit Unravel SOX? Firm Brings Constitutional Challenge [WSJ Law Blog]

Russian nesting dolls Matryoshka doll.jpg* Why does Wall Street get all the juicy scandals? We’re jealous of our DealBreaker colleagues. [Dealbreaker]
* Larry Ribstein’s take: “it’s hard not to think that it’s really all about dispute a few weeks ago between [the NYT's Andrew Ross] Sorkin and Dealbreaker’s John Carney.” [Ideoblog]
* Are you in the top one percent of U.S. taxpayers ranked by adjusted gross income? And which states are home to the richest of rich taxpayers? [TaxProf Blog]
* “Would you trust a law professor to be President?” [Althouse]
* Speaking of law profs, they may boycott the annual AALS meeting, due to the hotel owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. [National Law Journal via TaxProf Blog]
* An interesting interview of Fried Frank partner Jonathan Mechanic, a superstar of the real estate bar. [New York Observer]
* Russian judge: “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children.” [Telegraph (U.K.)]

Dustin Hoffman Rain Man autism autistic.jpgThis post over at our sister site, Dealbreaker, may remind you of some of your colleagues. It reminded us of a partner we once worked with — a brilliant litigator, with a photographic memory, but not the easiest person to interact with socially. Writes Bess Levin:

I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock for me to point out that many of you are socially awkward, often fail to demonstrate empathy for your peers, and are prone to restricted patterns of behavior such as hitting the submit button over and over and over again when trying to comment.

Which is to say, you likely all have a mild to major form of Asperger syndrome. Or do you? Take this quiz and post your results.

The incidence of Asperger syndrome is probably higher among Dealbreaker’s Wall Street readership than it is among the more well-adjusted ATL crowd. But if you’d like to see where you fall on the scale, visit Dealbreaker, and take the test.
(It’s 50 questions long, so it takes a few minutes to complete, but it goes by faster than you’d expect. We scored a 6. Feel free to post your score in the comments.)
What’s Wrong With You? [Dealbreaker]

Wall Street Wall St Above the Law blog.jpgDominating today’s news cycle is the Treasury Department’s plan to reform the nation’s system of financial regulation. For some thoughts on the proposal, check out what John Carney has to say over at our sibling site, Dealbreaker (in posts here and here).
This regulatory reform proposal comes at a grim time for Wall Street, characterized by some as “the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.” It feels like we’re at the end of an era. Wall Street profits are sinking fast, venerable investment banks look endangered, and financial-sector layoffs could claim 20,000 more jobs in the next two years, in New York City alone.
This is generally viewed as bad news for Biglaw, considering how much large law firms depend on the financial services industry for work. But could it perhaps be a boon for lawyers, if their standing in the city’s financial pecking order falls at a slower rate than that of Wall Street Masters of the Universe?
A reader drew our attention to this interesting Sunday Times article:

The collapse of a major financial institution is usually an occasion for hand-wringing and tut-tutting over potential job losses, lower consumer spending and missed mortgage payments.

In New York City, it’s also seen as an opportunity. For many of the city’s middle class, especially those in the creative class, who have felt sidelined as the city seemed to become a high-priced playground for Wall Street bankers, the implosion of the brokerage house Bear Stearns raises a tantalizing possibility: participation in an economy they have been largely shut out of.

Wonders our tipster:

“Some New Yorkers seem to be looking forward to the collapse of Wall Street and their huge salaries in the hopes that prices deflate a bit. Does this return lawyers to the top of the financial food chain? Or do those huge partner salaries take a dive along with Wall Street?”

For some law firms and lawyers — e.g., those that are heavily dependent on securitization and structured finance work — the Wall Street retrenchment is definitely unwelcome. But for others, especially those focused on countercyclical practice areas like bankruptcy, the bust could be a boom.
Take a look back at this post, in which one Biglaw partner described the plight of lawyers in New York as follows:

“Face it, [lawyers] have no status. We go to these [elite private] school functions [for our kids], and this well-heeled group looks right through you. They won’t give you the time of day. You’re just one step ahead of the doorman.”

So could there be, for lawyers, a silver lining to this economic cloud? Will lawyers move up a notch or two in the Gotham caste system thanks to the recession? Or are they too closely linked to Wall Street and its sinking fortunes to benefit significantly from any social and economic realignment?
Dumping Our Regulatory Alphabet Soup [Dealbreaker]
Treasury’s Brave New World Of Financial Innovation [Dealbreaker]
You Say Recession, I Say ‘Reservations!’ [New York Times]
Earlier: Pity the Poor Partners?

dominatrix AboveTheLaw Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgHere’s the answer (which may relate to our recent post about wombats). From Miss Victoria X, via our sibling site, Dealbreaker:

Inspired by the example of the generous Hamptons-based design firm which is now offering its stagings service at a discounted price to current/former/soon to be former Bear Stearns employees (staging is cleaning and prepping a house to be shown for sale), I have decided to offer a discount on sessions to all current/former/soon to be former Bear Stearns employees. The discount is equivalent to the current value of a share of Bear Stearns stock. That is to say, $2.

I approached this decision with some trepidation. You see, in my experience finance guys usually want things in their asses. I do not offer anal play on demand. Consequently the majority of my clients are lawyers.

Over at Dealbreaker, the commenters had some interesting reactions:

“One of the few times I’m actually glad I chose law instead of finance . . .”

“lawyers already take it up the ass on a daily basis from bankers, so they probably get their fill in the office.”

“so what? a chick’s tongue up there is a wondrous thing.”

That last comment was posted by Eliot Spitzer.
In which I give back to the community [Miss Victoria X: Dominatrix in Manhattan]
Bear Stearns Crisis Brings Out The Softer Side Of Whip-Toting Hooker [Dealbreaker]

Bear Stearns BSC Above the Law blog.jpgWith JPMorgan quintupling its offer for Bear Stearns earlier this morning, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, which asked you whether you were afraid the recent Bear Stearns collapse would hurt your career.
Twenty-seven percent of you said yes. New Yorkers were the most concerned, with roughly one third of respondents opining that the Bear Stearns collapse would hurt their careers. A quarter of respondents in Los Angeles and Atlanta and a fifth of respondents in Washington, DC said the same. In Boston and Philadelphia, seventeen percent of respondents were afraid the Bear Stearns event would hurt their careers, while in the Bay Area, the number fell to an unlucky thirteen percent. Respondents in Chicago, Dallas, and Houston were generally unafraid.
Concern was most pronounced among the newest lawyers and those closest to partnership. Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the Class of 2007, and thirty percent of respondents in the Classes of 2000 and 2001 were afraid that the Bear Stearns collapse would hurt their careers. A whopping fifty percent of respondents who graduated before 2000 shared this concern. Law students are also more likely to be frightened, with 43% of law students responding that they were afraid that the Bear Stearns event will hurt their careers.
Additional discussion, including selected comments from survey respondents, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Job Survey: A Bears Market?”

As we can see from the comments, you’re already all over this NYT story. We linked to it in Morning Docket, but here’s a little more. Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:

Wachtell Lipton Rosen Katz WLRK AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgJPMorgan and Bear were prompted to renegotiate after shareholders began threatening to block the deal and it emerged that several “mistakes” were included in the original, hastily written contract, according to people involved in the talks.

One sentence was “inadvertently included,” according to a person briefed on the talks, which requires JPMorgan to guarantee Bear’s trades even if shareholders voted down the deal. That provision could allow Bear’s shareholders to seek a higher bid while still forcing JPMorgan to honor its guarantee, these people said.

When the error was discovered, James Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, who was described by one participant as “apoplectic,” began calling his lawyers at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to seek a way to have the sentence modified, these people said. Finger pointing over the mistakes in the contracts began as bankers blamed the lawyers and vice versa.

We don’t have much to add to Ted Frank’s excellent observations. Here’s an open thread for anti-Wachtell schadenfreude.
(They’re big boys — and they send their clients big bills. So the WLRK folks can take a little snark and ribbing from the ATL commentariat.)
Update (11:40 AM): Actually, did Wachtell make a mistake? If so, what exactly was their error? Over at Dealbreaker, our colleague John Carney wonders: “How do you ‘inadvertently include’ a provision everyone is talking about?” (Gavel bang: commenter.)
How Do You Inadvertently Include A Provision Everyone Is Talking About? [Dealbreaker]
The dangers of doing an M&A agreement over a weekend [Overlawyered]
Did Mistakes in the JPM-Bear Contract Help Lead to Renegotiation? [WSJ Law Blog]
JPMorgan in Negotiations to Raise Bear Stearns Bid [New York Times]

McKee Nelson LLP AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgAn interesting article in today’s New York Times — by Lynnley Browning, author of the earlier Biglaw perks piece — focuses on the subprime mortgage mess and current investigations into the adequacy of disclosures to investors.
Investigators are focused on Wall Street, but lawyers involved in the securitization process may also face scrutiny. Government investigation is the last thing these struggling law firms need, as they try to retool in the face of a grim outlook for structured finance and real estate work.
The article focuses on McKee Nelson:

McKee Nelson burst onto the scene in 1999 and quickly grabbed lucrative Wall Street work from long-established rivals. William F. Nelson, one of its co-founders, said the firm, which is known for its sophisticated tax work, did not employ any special legal maneuvers to outflank its competitors. “There’s no secret, magic elixir that we sprinkled,” Mr. Nelson said.

In any case, the mortgage turmoil is now hitting the highly regarded McKee Nelson hard. The firm recently pared its structured finance department to 80 lawyers from about 115 through buyouts, sabbaticals and transfers to other departments. More cuts are unlikely, a spokeswoman said.

So that’s good news. And the firm is trying to take lemons and make the proverbial lemonade:

[A]fter profiting from the mortgage boom, McKee Nelson is now positioning itself to profit from the bust by riding the coming wave of lawsuits. In January, the firm flew its partners and their spouses to Charleston, S.C., aboard four Delta commuter jets, to map out its strategy.

“We’re heavily committed to doing more litigation,” Mr. Nelson said. The firm hopes to represent investment banks, hedge funds and other financial companies, as well as their executives, in a variety of litigation, he said.

And maybe law firms, too, as lawsuits and investigations proliferate? See, e.g., Cadwalader, facing a $70 million lawsuit arising out of a securitization deal gone bad.
Small Law Firm’s Big Role in Bundling Mortgages [New York Times]

* Fed cuts fed funds rate by 0.75%, but stocks are still lower. [AP; New York Times; Washington Post]
* Clinton and Obama get snippy with each other in debate, raising questions about each other’s legal work. [Washington Post; New York Times; WSJ Law Blog]
* SCOTUS denies review in gigantic Enron-related investors’ lawsuit. [SCOTUSblog via How Appealing]
* Statutory interpretation makes for strange bedfellows in 5-4 ruling in Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. [SCOTUSblog (PDF) via How Appealing]
* New York City revisits the issue of forced disclosure of calorie counts by restaurants. [AP via Drudge]

Earlier this hour, the Supreme Court handed down its eagerly anticipated ruling in the Stoneridge case. See collected links below, to posts by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog and Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog. The opinion itself is available here (PDF).
Lyle Denniston writes:

supreme court full frontal Above the Law.jpgThe Supreme Court, in one of the most important securities law rulings in years, decided Tuesday that fraud claims are not allowed against third parties that did not directly mislead investors but were business partnes with those who did. The 5-3 ruling came in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta (06-43).

Investors, the Court said, may only sue those who issued statements or otherwise took direct action that the investors had relied upon in buying or selling stock — whether that involved public statements, omissions of key facts, manipulative trading, or conduct that was itself deceptive. One impact of the decision is likely to be the scuttling of a massive $40 billion lawsuit against financial institutions growing out of the Enron scandal.

This news will be welcomed by many in the business community. But is it bad news for business litigators? Defending dubious securities fraud lawsuits may not be very sexy. But over the years, doing battle with the Milberg Weisses of the world has kept many a large law firm busy — and profitable.
With transactional work drying up, is the Supreme Court’s business-law revolution, cutting down on litigation against corporate America, coming at a bad time for Biglaw as a business?
Court limits securities fraud lawsuits [SCOTUSblog]
Stoneridge is in! Supremes Rein in Investor Suits [WSJ Law Blog]

Page 20 of 241...161718192021222324