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For the past 2 1/2 years James Lopes has been the point man in the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Chapter 11 case, among the largest and most complex matters to land in a federal bankruptcy court. In his ongoing effort to restructure PG&E’s $12 billion of debt, Lopes has had to navigate a thicket of regulatory and environmental concerns while fending off a rival reorganization plan advanced by the California Public Utilities Commission. Anyone who knows the 56-year-old Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin partner, however, says he’s up to the challenge. A native of Watsonville, Lopes founded Howard, Rice’s bankruptcy practice 21 years ago, when he and Barbara Gordon joined from their own firm, Gordon, Peitzman & Lopes. Acquaintances say Lopes, a former managing partner of Howard, Rice, has a knack for the numbers along with a calming personality and a self-confidence that inspires trust from clients. “Some lawyers are quick to tell you what you can’t do,” says Gordon. “That’s not the way Jim is. He tries to find a way where you can do.” While Lopes may be best known for his current role representing PG&E, his resume is loaded with major bankruptcy cases in which he’s represented a variety of interests. He represented the creditors committees in the Chapter 11 cases of Media Vision Technology Inc. and Technical Equities Corp. In the Technical Equities case, a San Jose real estate and investment firm was accused of defrauding investors of $175 million. Lopes pursued a parallel litigation strategy to recoup money from the company’s accounting firm. The suit resulted in a $7 million settlement and set a precedent that allowed creditors to recover money from several other banks and insurance firms. “He really went the extra mile,” says Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps partner Michael Isaacs, who represented the trustee in the case. “His firm went way, way out on a limb for the creditors.”

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