Members of Bingham McCutchen’s litigation team. ()
Bingham McCutchen may only have eight litigators in its Connecticut office. But they insist there’s no shortage of staff or resources for the cases they handle both in and out of state. After all, there are 450 total Bingham McCutchen litigators worldwide.
And just because the eight Connecticut lawyers happen to be in Hartford, that doesn’t mean they’re not working on a complex case originating from another part of the country.
“The Hartford litigation team is strong,” said Timothy Burke, cochairman of Bingham McCutchen’s Financial Institutions Regulatory, Enforcement and Litigation Group. “Our Hartford litigators have active practices that seamlessly collaborate with lawyers throughout our offices across the U.S. and overseas, providing clients a full range of services.”
The Hartford team is particularly strong in the high-finance practice areas, strong enough for Bingham McCutchen’s Connecticut octet to be awarded the Connecticut Law Tribune’s Litigation Department of the Year Award in the commercial and financial categories.
Burke, who works out of the firm’s Boston office, pointed to some of the firm’s successes last year as evidence.
“For example, in 2013, a team including Hartford partner Michael Blanchard and New York partner Kenneth Schacter secured the dismissal of a putative $6 billion class action against broker-dealer David Lerner Associates in the Eastern District of New York,” said Burke.
Another example? A team including Hartford partners Michael D’Agostino and Hal Horwich, and Boston partner Sabin Willet, represented T. Rowe Price and more than two dozen financial institutions and funds in actions arising out of the 2007 leveraged buyout of the Tribune Company, a media giant. The court appointed Bingham McCutchen, along with several other firms, to a defendants’ executive committee responsible for coordinating the defense.
“Both of these matters,” continued Burke, “and many others handled by our lawyers in Hartford and globally, demonstrate why Bingham is a destination firm for high-profile, high-stakes litigation.”
Stuart Rosen, a member of the same financial litigation team and a partner in the Hartford office, said getting help on a case from another Bingham McCutchen lawyer is as easy as picking up the phone. “We never feel we don’t have the support,” said Rosen. “We really go out of our way to make sure lawyers handling cases have all the resources they need to do the best job for the client.”
Rosen said a colleague in California recently needed assistance in a complicated case pending in Nevada, so he and three other lawyers helped out. The Hartford firm recently needed help on an environmental law issue within a bigger case. Rosen said he called the firm’s environmental law partner, who referred Rosen to a colleague in the Boston office. They then connected on the phone.
“That’s it, simple as that. We’re very connected,” said Rosen.
Rosen confirmed that the Connecticut-based lawyers often have to go out of state for extended periods to handle cases. “A lot of our cases are not based in Connecticut—Nevada, California, New York, pretty much anywhere,” said Rosen.
The Hartford lawyers serve corporations and institutional clients, focusing on complex commercial, banking, insurance, insolvency and securities litigation matters. The team represents financial institutions, insurance companies, issuers, hedge funds, private equity firms and broker-dealers in litigation in federal and state courts and arbitrations.
Clients include Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, AIG, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, Sovereign Bank, Citibank and Wachovia Bank.
Rosen said the firm often defends major financial institutions in securities class actions, as well as representing leading insurers in mass torts, environmental pollution, silica and asbestos, construction defects and property damage cases.
He said the firm is on the plaintiffs’ side sometimes but more often defends claims against clients.
In addition to the David Lerner Associates and T. Rowe Price cases last year, Hartford litigators obtained a dismissal in a class action that had been filed against Oppenheimer & Co., a financial services company.
Institutional investors claimed that an Oppenheimer private equity fund misrepresented its past performance to investors by altering its valuation methodology. As a result, it reported a 38 percent rate of return instead of a loss. Plaintiffs asked to reclaim more than $60 million in lost investments, citing Wall Street Journal reports of investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Massachusetts attorney general.
Bingham McCutchen lawyers, including Hartford’s Blanchard, convinced the federal court in Massachusetts to dismiss the claim. Then, in the shadow of the SEC and Massachusetts attorney general investigation, a $325,000 settlement was reached.
“We have a nice mix of individual cases for a corporation or individual and repeat clients,” said Rosen. “What we strive for is a destination shop for commercial litigation.”•