The gradual demise of
Dewey & LeBoeuf
continued on Thursday as more partners defected for Am Law 200 shops and a spin-off boutique. Plus, the struggling firm found itself hit with its first suit under the
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act
(WARN), and federal regulators moved to take over its underfunded pension plans.
Vittoria Conn, whose LinkedIn page identifies her as a document specialist who has worked at Dewey since 1999, filed an 11-page complaint against the firm in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She accuses Dewey of failing to abide by state and federal laws requiring employers to provide between 60 and 90 days’ notice of a mass layoff of more than 100 employees.
Jack Raisner and Rene Roupinian, cochairs of the WARN practice at New York–based labor and employment firm
Outten & Golden
, are representing Conn in the action. The suit seeks class certification status on behalf of 450 employees that have been terminated at Dewey between May 7 and May 11, according to the complaint. Conn is seeking 60 days’ pay and benefits for herself and all other similarly situated Dewey workers. (
Bloomberg first reported the news of Conn’s suit on Thursday
That notion was seconded by Charles Ercole, a WARN Act litigation veteran and partner with Philadelphia’s
Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg
said in a statement Thursday
that employers like Dewey often fail to comply with their WARN obligations because they’re “focused solely on saving or selling the business.”
Secretaries at Dewey are set to have their last day at the firm Friday, while some associates have been told that they’ll be let go next Tuesday,
according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal
. A spokesman for Dewey did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the firm’s fate and the WARN litigation it now faces from its own employees.
Meanwhile, federal regulators are taking steps to seize pension plans at Dewey that face a shortfall of more than $80 million,
according to The Wall Street Journal
. Dewey reportedly has only $127 million in assets to offset $214 million in pension obligations as it faces a May 15 deadline with its lender banks JPMorgan Chase, Citi Private Bank, Bank of America, and HSBC.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, an independent U.S. government agency that protects pensions by charging insurance premiums on employers,
said in a statement late Thursday
that it will take responsibility for three pension plans covering nearly 1,800 Dewey employees.
One former Dewey partner, who spoke with
The Am Law Daily on Thursday, couldn’t help but reminisce about the ramifications of that ill-fated union. The partner says the cultures of the two firms never quite meshed—Dewey’s attorneys had the refined air of a traditional white-shoe New York firm, with LeBoeuf Lamb’s lawyers were more blue-collar, working-class types. The difference continues–the legions of laterals now emanating from the firm tend to fall into either the Dewey camp or the LeBoeuf camp.
On Thursday, several Am Law 200 and international firms announced new Dewey hires.
Baker Botts announced the hire
of energy transactions partners Michael Didriksen and William Lamb in New York, along with Thomas Moore in Houston. Lamb was the cochair of Dewey’s utilities, power, and pipelines group, while Moore served as cochair of the firm’s energy M&A practice.
While the losses pile up, several key partners still remain at the firm, including Martin Bienenstock and L. Charles Landgraf, the last two remaining members of Dewey’s office of the chairman. Bienenstock is the founder and chair of the business solutions and governance department; Landgraf is the chair of the firm’s legislative and public policy practice and managing partner of Dewey’s office in Washington, D.C.
Also still at Dewey, for the time being, are M&A practice head and
newly appointed executive partner Stephen Horvath
; vice-chair and regulatory and corporate governance partner Ralph Ferrara; global private equity chair Joseph Smith; corporate securities group and Latin America practice chair Michael Fitzgerald; and bankruptcy expert and Los Angeles office managing partner Bruce Bennett.
Sources say that Bennett,
who joined Dewey in a high-profile lateral move last year
, is in advanced talks about joining
Irell & Manella
who joined Dewey in the fall of 2007
, has been in discussions with
who came aboard last summer
, has also spoken with Greenberg,
Latham & Watkins
White & Case
. And Smith has held talks with
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
Schulte Roth & Zabel
Dewey is expected to close its doors for good next week.
Additional reporting by Julie Triedman and Ross Todd.