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STATE SENATOR TARGETS TARZANA LAW FIRM SACRAMENTO — The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has agreed to look into a state senator’s allegations that a law firm has been giving budget-breaking advice to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. State Sen. Richard Alarc&oacuten, D-Los Angeles, requested the investigation based on his belief that the legal advice of Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Pearson — which is based in Tarzana — could be bad for taxpayers. “This firm grew from a practice with little to no construction litigation and liability expertise to a firm that has reaped tens of millions in MTA dollars for managing both its insurance and litigation programs,” Alarc&oacuten said in a press release. “This relationship should cause us to � determine if � the current structure poses any conflicts of interest.” Asked to comment, Steve Wasserman, a partner at the firm, said he had not yet heard about the probe. He did not return a call for further comment Tuesday afternoon. Wasserman, Comden has represented the MTA since at least the mid-1990s, according to Alarc&oacuten’s office. In 2001, the firm helped the MTA win a $29 million judgment in a construction dispute. That case, Tutor-Saliba-Perini J.V v. Los Angeles County MTA, BC123559, is now on appeal. Alarc&oacuten alleges the firm has created a litigious environment around MTA projects. Because of the lawyers’ work on behalf of the MTA, fewer contractors bid on projects, and those who do add 25 percent to 30 percent to cover possible suits, according to Alarc&oacuten’s press release. The firm was founded in 1976 and has about 35 lawyers, according to its Martindale-Hubbell listing. It does a variety of work, including general civil, real estate and insurance. – Jeff Chorney COUDERT MOVES INTO SPEAR TOWER OFFICES Coudert Brothers moved from the Cannery building in San Francisco into new digs at One Market’s Spear Street Tower on Monday. Previously occupied by Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, the space is about 12,000 square feet. Coudert had negotiated a sublease with Brobeck before the firm announced in January that it would be closing down. Coudert then worked out a deal to rent the space directly from the landlord, Equity Office Partners. “We wanted to return to the Financial District so we could be closer to our clients and the firms and banks with whom we do business,” said Coudert partner Robert Christopher. Christopher said cost was also a factor in the decision to move. When the New York-based firm moved its San Francisco office from Four Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf two years ago, “the lease rates were such that it was impractical to stay,” he said. “Now the lease rates are viable.” Christopher declined to say how much rent the firm is paying for not quite an entire floor of Spear Street Tower, but he said it was less than the cost of the Cannery building space. The 11-attorney office is also smaller than it was two years ago when it reached a height of 25. In addition to its San Francisco outpost, Coudert has 15 attorneys in Palo Alto. Last year the firm closed its San Jose office and moved attorneys to Palo Alto. – Brenda Sandburg

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