U.S. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC is looking to trial veteran John Keker of Keker & Van Nest to defend it against a $5 billion–plus fraud claim launched by the U.S. Department of Justice and 13 state attorneys general on February 4. Justice’s 127-page civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that McGraw subsidiary S&P misled investors and manipulated ratings to drum up more business and boost its profits. (S&P said in a statement that the lawsuit is unjustified and without legal merit.) Keker is known for taking on tough cases; he successfully defended Enron Corporation executive Andrew Fastow and banker Frank Quattrone and was tapped by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, among others. S&P has also tapped First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams of Cahill Gordon & Reindel. The ratings agency may need the firepower: It lost some key motions in private civil claims in recent months, showing cracks in its defensive armor.
Millennium Import v. Reed Smith
Schulte Roth & Zabel‘s Robert Abra­hams and Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti’s Anthony Sylvester persuaded a New York appeals court on January 24 to reinstate a suit brought by Reed Smith against three other firms related to an $83 million legal malpractice case it is facing. Reed Smith and two of its partners, Douglas Wood and Darren Cohen, have been fighting a claim by a former client, Millennium Import LLC, that the firm was negligent in advising the company about its license to use the Belvedere name on its gin. Reed Smith claims that the other firms also advised Millennium on the issue and are therefore liable. James Berry of Berry & Perkins has tapped Andrew Jones at Furman Kornfeld & Brennan; Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg is looking to Coughlin Duffy’s Daniel Markham; and Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu is relying on Robert Churchill of Eaton & Van Winkle. (Neither Reed Smith nor lawyers for the three firms would comment.)
ACA Financial v. Goldman Sachs
John Paulson’s hedge fund will have to defend claims that his firm conspired with The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to fraudulently induce a bond insurer to guarantee payments on risky debt. On January 31 that bond insurer, ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation, filed an amended complaint in state court in New York naming as defendants Paulson & Co Inc. and one of its hedge funds in a $120 million lawsuit it brought against Goldman in 2011. ACA alleges that Goldman misrepresented that Paulson’s and ACA’s financial interests in Abacus were "aligned," and that Paulson was not a true third-party "equity investor" at arm’s length from Goldman, but only playing that role in a rigged deal. Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman is leading the team for ACA; Richard Klapper of Sullivan & Cromwell is defending Goldman; and Paulson is looking to Mei Lin Kwan-Gett of Willkie Farr & Gallagher.