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Natural Born Killers Vinson & Elkins is gearing up for a battle with the Federal Trade Commission following the agency’s move to file suit to block its client Whole Foods Market’s proposed $565 million buyout of its main competitor, Wild Oats Markets. The deal, which became public in February, was scrutinized by the FTC, with the agency issuing a second request for documents. “The parties produced voluminous documents, cooperated with the commission and its inquiry,” says Alden Atkins, a partner at Vinson & Elkins and lead litigation counsel for Whole Foods. “They have carefully crafted the product market to include just Whole Foods and Wild Oats. What they are doing is alleging a product market that excludes supermarkets.” The suit was filed under seal last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Atkins says Whole Foods will challenge the complaint. He also plans to file a preliminary injunction on behalf of the company. Vinson’s D.C.-based Neil Imus is lead antitrust counsel for Whole Foods. Clifford Aronson of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is lead counsel for Wild Oats.
Dewey’s Open Door Dewey Ballantine’s D.C. office picked up tax partner Todd McArthur, the firm’s latest gain in a spate of lateral hiring. McArthur, who joined Dewey at the beginning of this month, focuses on transactional tax and tax controversy issues. He comes to the firm from KPMG, where he was a principal. Since the firm’s merger with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe collapsed in January, Dewey has lost partners in Washington and New York, including Cono Carrano, former co-chair of the IP litigation practice who is now with Howrey’s D.C. office. Dewey has also seen the departure of three insurance attorneys — Jeffrey Liebmann, Jonathan Freedman, and Jonathan Kelly — to Sidley Austin at the end of May. But the firm has been trying to tighten the leaky faucet. Since the beginning of March, Dewey has added 19 lateral partners firm-wide. Within the past month, two new partners, James Bryant and W. Todd Stillerman from Dechert, opened up an office in Charlotte, N.C., and Mitchel Pahl from Alston & Bird and William Schrag from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius both joined the New York office as partners. “We’ve been focused on growth for some time,” says Gordon Warnke, the firm’s co-chair, in an e-mail. “A merger was just one possible avenue for growth. Now we’re focusing on individual and small group lateral partner acquisitions.”
Fighting the FTC, Redux Heller Ehrman won a major victory for Western Refining last week, which allowed the petroleum giant to complete its $1.4 billion acquisition of Arizona-based Giant Industries. The two combined now form the nation’s fourth-largest publicly traded independent petroleum refiner. The big oil deal went through after the Federal Trade Commission failed in its attempts to get federal courts in Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver to temporarily stop the merger. The FTC claimed the merger would reduce competition and increase gasoline prices in the Southwest. It’s the first time Heller Ehrman has represented Western Refining. Washington partners Michael Cohen, Marc Schildkraut, Ted Henneberry, and David Smutny worked the case. In fall 2006, the two companies agreed to merge, notifying the FTC. The agency investigated the merger for about seven months and decide to pursue a preliminary injunction. The case went before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, which denied the injunction. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit denied the FTC’s request for an injunction, finding the government’s success unlikely. In the coming weeks, the FTC will decide whether to appeal the case to the the 10th Circuit.
Venable 2, DLA Piper 0 Continuing its hiring streak, Venable raided DLA Piper for partners Douglas Green and William Weissman. The duo had spent more than two decades working in the firm’s environmental practice group, representing clients like the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, a national consortium of utility companies and trade associations. “Doug and Bill bring a tremendous base of knowledge and work experience in environmental law,” says Brock Landry, chairman of Venable’s government division. “Particularly as it governs chemical products and solid and hazardous waste management generated by the nation’s electric utility industry.”
Bingham Says Buh-Bye While Bingham McCutchen is now paying top dollar to hold on to associates at its offices across the country, in San Francisco the firm seems to be paying top dollar so that some of them will leave. Several mid-level and senior litigation associates have taken a buyout deal from the 1,000-lawyer, Boston-based firm, according to multiple sources inside and outside the firm. Four attorneys recently left the firm, and three traded in their full-time associate status for the part-time title of contract attorney, those sources say. Last week, the firm raised associate salaries in all offices to $160,000, following scores of other large firms that have done the same. Anthony Carbone, chair of the firm’s committee on associates, described the personnel moves in San Francisco as “mutually agreeable transitions” initiated by associates based on their individual situations — not layoffs initiated by the firm. The firm recently closed a deal to acquire Los Angeles litigation boutique Alschuler Grossman. Though the firm wouldn’t say who may have accepted buyouts, four litigation associates have left in the last month. No one would say how much severance was offered.
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip? Contact Business Editor Anna Palmer at [email protected]. Zusha Elinson, of The Recorder , an ALM publication, contributed to this article.

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