As war became a possibility during the protracted Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, Iran initiated secret negotiations to free the 52 American captives, not through diplomatic channels but through Shearman & Sterling partner John Hoffman, who brokered a deal to unfreeze $12 billion in Iranian assets kept in U.S. banks in exchange for the hostages’ release.

This episode is among many featured in a museum-quality exhibit that Shearman & Sterling has mounted to mark its involvement in significant milestones in law, politics and business. In 125 years as a law firm, Shearman & Sterling has been at the center of many major legal battles, including financier Jay Gould’s fight for control of the nation’s main railroads just after the Civil War, Viacom’s bid for Paramount Communications in what became known as “the deal from Hell” and Shannon Faulkner’s challenge to the banning of women from the Citadel military college.

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