Mayer Brown's top partner committee has selected Herbert 'Bert' Krueger to replace James Holzhauer as firm chairman in June, pending a partnership vote later this month.
Krueger, who is based in Chicago, will become chairman of the firm under a new governance structure if the partners vote in favor of the changes in a mid-month poll, the firm said in a statement. Holzhauer said in March said he would step down from the post for health reasons and because he had grown weary of the heavy travel schedule associated with the job.
"Mayer Brown's Policy & Planning Committee, the firm's governing body, has nominated Herbert W. (Bert) Krueger as chairman," the firm said in a brief statement. "The partnership will vote in mid-April to approve a new governance structure for the firm and Mr. Krueger as its chairman."
The new structure with a single chairman to lead the firm would replace a troika-style leadership that Mayer Brown has had since June 2007 when it appointed Holzhauer as the chairman with two vice chairmen, Paul Maher in London and Kenneth Geller in Washington, D.C. The structure was criticized by some partners who left the firm as being unwieldy and less focused.
Krueger, who is a University of Chicago law school graduate, focuses his practice on private equity, ERISA employment law and executive compensation issues, according to the firm's Web site. He couldn't be reached for further comment.
With the appointment, Krueger effectively pushes aside other contenders for the post who were also on the 16-member policy and planning committee. Krueger, who has been on the committee since 1989, will take the helm of the firm just as it's seeking to weather one of the worst economic downturns in decades and one that has hit the firm's financial and structured finance groups hard, idling many lawyers. Mayer Brown has had two rounds of lawyer and staff layoffs since November, including two in the U.S. and one proposed for its London office.
In the most recent round, the firm announced last week that its U.S. offices would shed 45 lawyers and 90 administrative assistants. In addition, the firm is seeking permission from British authorities to cut up to 55 employees, including 22 lawyers and 23 administrative staff employees. As part of the cost-cutting this month, the firm also asked some U.S. income partners and counsel lawyers to take reduced pay and/or reduced schedules. Last November, the firm cut 33 lawyers in the U.S.
The downturn was preceded by a migration of partners from the firm in the past several years. While at least 45 lower-performing partners were asked to leave the firm in a public de-equitization of the lawyers, others departed because they said that they were unhappy with the firm's management and worried about litigation problems that had cropped up in recent years. The outflow of partners led the firm in 2007 to change its policy on giving back partners' capital investments, giving it up to six months to return the money.
The firm faces a $2 billion lawsuit by the trustee of the now defunct commodities broker Refco Inc., which the trustee claims collapsed in 2005 partly because of fraudulent work done by Mayer Brown. New York federal prosecutors indicted Mayer Brown Partner Joseph Collins in 2007 for his role in allegedly structuring fraudulent loans that contributed to the collapse of Refco.
While the law firm last month saw the dismissal of a shareholder lawsuit related to the same work, Collins is slated to go on trial next month. He is on leave from the firm and has said through his lawyers that he is innocent of the charges.
The firm declined comment beyond the statement.