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Credit Check Visa was on the receiving end of a judicial curbing when attorneys at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett won a huge, three-year-long battle for their client MasterCard. The credit card company was challenging a Visa bylaw that forced its largest debit card issuers to pay a large penalty for switching their business to a competitor. U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York ruled June 7 that a service fee Visa places on its debit card issuers basically deters them from taking their business to a competitor, making it illegal. Washington-based Simpson Thacher partners Peter Thomas and Arman Oruc, along with Joe Tringali in New York, represented MasterCard. “We’re delighted that MasterCard was successful,” says Thomas, who is managing partner of the D.C. office. “As a result of the judge’s remedy, MasterCard will be able to compete with banks’ business without the overhang of Visa’s draconian measures.” Washington Arnold & Porter partners David Gersch and Susan Lee and San Francisco partner Bob Vizas represented Visa. The bylaw was written in the summer of 2003, after Visa’s $2 billion settlement in a Wal-Mart antitrust class action. As part of the settlement, the companies agreed to a d�tente in the form of mutually reduced debit rates. But then Visa created the “Settlement Service Fee” bylaw, which imposed a large penalty on Visa’s top 100 debit-issuing banks. In the case before Jones, Paul Shechtman, one of the leading criminal defense lawyers in New York City and a name partner at Stillman, Friedman & Shechtman, was appointed to the position of special master to expedite the fact-intensive case. Once Shechtman sided with MasterCard in late 2006, the Justice Department (led by John Reed and Michael Dashefsky of the Antitrust Division) — which had been neutral, electing only to submit briefs on specific questions — sided with the Simpson Thacher lawyers and MasterCard on the remedy question. The judge also ruled that all of Visa’s top 100 debit card issuers could terminate their agreements with Visa.
Wilmer’s Save The announcement by former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) earlier this month that the Justice Department had closed its investigation into his contacts with congressional pages was more than just personal vindication for the former congressman. It also marked the second good outcome this year for members of Congress represented by WilmerHale. Kolbe was represented by Reginald Brown, a former associate White House counsel, and Brent Gurney, a former federal prosecutor in Maryland. Earlier this spring, partners William McLucas and Harry Weiss — both former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyers — helped former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) through a joint probe by the Justice Department and the SEC into allegations of insider trading in the stock of hospital company HCA Inc., a firm founded by Frist’s family. That investigation was closed in April without a finding of wrongdoing.
Legal Ranking If you’re a lawyer and have been wondering what a ranking system might think of your practice (and what competitive Washington lawyer hasn’t?), then Avvo is the place for you. The new Web site rates and profiles lawyers. And according to the company’s own pronouncement, last week’s launching “marks the first time attorney ratings have been available for every attorney and the first time that detailed profiles and disciplinary information for those attorneys have been available in a single place.” Which is only partly true, considering the Web site’s database of lawyers includes only those practicing in the District of Columbia, Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Avvo promises it will be adding more states soon. Avvo’s founder and CEO is Mark Britton, the former general counsel at Expedia. Britton started the company in February last year and was able to raise millions from investment firms such as Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners. The company operates a bit like Wikipedia. People can submit client ratings, and lawyers can endorse one another, including uploading content to their profiles. For its part, Avvo says it searches state courts, bar associations, and lawyers’ Web sites for information. Avvo’s advisory board includes former LexisNexis CEO Lou Andreozzi, Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode, and former American Bar Association President Robert Hirshon.
Name Dropping Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is shortening its name to Mayer Brown. The change may not guarantee greater name recognition and marketing opportunities for new clients, but it will at the very least make it easier for legal business reporters to identify the firm. Mayer Brown is following the lead of Dickstein Shapiro and DLA Piper, which last year shortened their names. The shortening seems to be a trend, which means all eyes are on the intellectual property gang over at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner.
Revolving Door Some of the more notable deck chairs to be shuffled around Washington include these: Eileen O’Connor, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, resigned last week and announced her pending arrival at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. She starts July 1. Matthew Jacobs jumped over last week to Jenner & Block as a partner. Since 1989, Jacobs had led the insurance coverage practice of the Washington office of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis. James Atkinson busted a U-turn and rejoined Miller & Chevalier’s tax practice as a partner, slightly more than a year after heading over to Winston & Strawn. Michael Kiklis and Kimani Clark sprinted over to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld earlier this month as partners in the IP practice in Washington. The duo had been partners at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip? Contact Business Editor Anna Palmer at [email protected]. Jason McLure contributed to this article.

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