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SIMPSON THACHER TOPS LIST OF U.S. M&A FIRMS NEW YORK — The value of U.S. announced mergers and acquisitions activity increased by almost 20 percent in 2003, reflecting a strong surge in deal-making in the fourth quarter, according to figures released by Thomson Financial, the business research and information group. Deals announced in the last quarter of 2003 accounted for $209.4 billion of the year’s total of $525.6 billion, up from $439.5 billion in 2002. The uptick in the latter part of 2003 was strong enough to compensate for an anemic first half, in which U.S. deal flow actually fell 16.7 percent from the same period the year before. The first six months of 2003 were the worst for U.S. M & A activity since the first quarter of 1995. The last three months were the best since the beginning of 2001. Mark Gerstein, co-chair of global M&A at Latham & Watkins, said he expected the increased level of merger activity to continue through 2004. He credited executive’s internal focus of recent years with improving conditions for such transactions. “People clearly have a lot more confidence in their own businesses and their own ability to execute mergers,” he said. New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett took the top spot among M&A law firms in Thomson’s U.S. rankings for 2003, advising on 71 deals worth $102.6 billion. The firm’s total represented an 84.2 percent gain from the year before, when it advised on deals worth $55.7 billion. Last year’s leader, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, fell 26.6 percent to fourth place in the United States, with 132 deals worth $97.6 billion. Skadden retained its top position in the worldwide rankings, though, with 191 deals valued at $175.8 billion. Second-place Latham & Watkins’ 124 deals valued at $100.9 billion, were worth 196.9 percent more than the firm’s total the year before. Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton followed closely with 41 deals valued at $100.7 billion, an 83.4 percent increase for that firm. Sullivan & Cromwell rounded out the top five, with 73 deals valued at $96 billion, a slight decrease from $97 billion in 2002. — The New York Law Journal UBS BANK DISMISSED FROM WORLDCOM SUITS NEW YORK — An investment bank that helped sell securities tied to the stock price of WorldCom. Inc. has been dismissed from the class actions filed over those securities following the collapse of the telecommunications giant. Southern District Judge Denise Cote granted the motion to dismiss made by lawyers for UBS AG, saying the bank’s accurate statements about the historical stock price could not support a claim under the securities laws. The plaintiffs had alleged that UBS was party to the fraud perpetrated on company investors because the historical stock price was artificially inflated by the largest accounting fraud in U.S. history: the overstatement in financial reports of about $9 billion between 1999 and 2002. UBS had been named as a defendant in some of the investor suits, which have been consolidated before Judge Cote by the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, because the bank had issued securities called GOALs. GOALs are notes that paid an annual interest rate of 12 percent over two years. The amount of the principal that was to be repaid as they matured was dependent on the performance of WorldCom stock. UBS was accused of violating § 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 for citing the stock prices for WorldCom beginning in 1998 in a prospectus supplement filed in January 2002. Judge Cote noted that the supplement told investors that UBS did not know whether WorldCom had disclosed all events that occurred before the date of the supplement, and warned investors to undertake their own independent investigation of the company. — The New York Law Journal PANEL GRANTS HABEAS IN 911 TAPES CASE NEW YORK — The admission into evidence of a 911 tape violated a defendant’s right to confront witnesses against him in a criminal trial, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. Ordering that a writ of habeas corpus be granted for a man sentenced to serve seven to 14 years in prison, the Second Circuit found that recorded phone report used against defendant Troy Brown in his trial for aggravated assault on a police officer “did not fall within any recognized exception to the hearsay rule.” The decision in Brown v. Keane, 02-2703, vacates a ruling by Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who had appeared to break new ground in the courts of the Second Circuit when he denied Brown’s petition and ruled the introduction of the 911 tape did not violate the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution because it fell within a “firmly rooted” exception to the rule against hearsay evidence. Brown was convicted in Bronx Supreme Court of attempted aggravated assault on a police officer for a shooting incident that occurred outside a bar in the Bronx. The decision was joined by Chief Judge John Walker Jr. and Judge Jose Cabranes. — The New York Law Journal

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