Martin Bienenstock, the well-regarded bankruptcy and restructuring lawyer who failed in his effort to save his own firm, is back on his feet at Proskauer Rose.
Bienenstock, the founder of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s business solutions and governance practice and a former member of the now-defunct firm’s office of the chairman, decamped for Proskauer in mid-May with a team of former Dewey colleagues. On Friday, Bienenstock and several members of that lateral group filed their application to serve as counsel to the statutory creditors’ committee of bankrupt derivatives broker MF Global Holdings.
MF Global creditors initially hired Bienenstock and Dewey last November. As The Am Law Daily reported in January, Dewey partners working on MF Global–related matters were billing between $775 and $1,200 per hour, of counsel from the firm were billing between $760 and $900, and Dewey associates were billing between $395 and $675. Bienenstock and Michael Kessler, both of whom joined Dewey from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, were each billing $1,000 an hour. (Dewey also disclosed in court records that it was paid $59,720 for advice related to three tax transactions it handled for MF Global last August, about two months before the company sought Chapter 11 protection on Halloween.)
Now ensconced at Proskauer—which happens to be one of the few firms in Manhattan to have its name emblazoned atop its office’s exterior—Bienenstock and Kessler are continuing to bill $1,000 an hour on the MF Global case. (The billing practices of, and rates charged by, top bankruptcy lawyers have been a hot topic lately, as the U.S. Trustee Program mulls making changes to more closely monitor legal billings, according to sibling publication the New York Law Journal.)
One thing that has changed slightly since Bienenstock and company moved to Proskauer is the overall range the firm’s attorneys are billing on the MF Global case. Proskauer partners are billing the bankrupt brokerage’s estate between $675 and $1,050 per hour, of counsel between $640 and $850, and associates at rates ranging from $295 to $750, according to court records.
Other Dewey partners now at Proskauer who are representing MF Global creditors include Mark Fennessy ($995) and Hazel Miller ($950) in London; and Irena Goldstein ($875) and Timothy Karcher ($875) in New York.
Both Fennessy and Miller joined Dewey last fall from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which itself is keeping busy as lead adviser to the city of Stockton, California, as it mulls whether or not to become the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy by seeking Chapter 9 protection.
Stockton, a municipality about 80 miles east of San Francisco that boasts the nation’s second-highest foreclosure rate, saw its city council vote earlier this month to authorize a bankruptcy filing unless it wins concessions from creditors to eliminate a $26 million deficit.
Orrick restructuring partner Marc Levinson in Sacramento and public finance partner John Knox in San Francisco are advising the city’s municipal government on its restructuring efforts. Orrick helped the state of California arrange a $5.4 billion bridge loan last year, and Levinson and Knox led a team from the firm that reaped more than $11 million in fees for their efforts guiding Vallejo, California, through its own Chapter 9 case that ended in July 2011.
Stockton expects to stop bond payments and file for bankruptcy unless it can reach an agreement with creditors before midnight Monday as the city seeks to get a handle on its finances before the start of its new fiscal year on July 1.
Below are some other bankruptcy-related matters being taken up by, and affecting, Am Law 200 firms. As usual, hourly billing rates listed in parentheses, when available:
Allied Systems Holdings
Owned by billionaire Ronald Burkle’s private equity firm Yucaipa Companies, automobile and truck hauler Allied Systems Holding slid into bankruptcy earlier this month, a few weeks after creditors hit the Atlanta-based company with an involuntary Chapter 11 petition in Delaware.
Troutman Sanders bankruptcy and structured finance partner Carolyn Peterson Richter, bankruptcy partner Jeffrey Kelley, and bankruptcy senior counsel Ezra Cohen, all of whom are in Atlanta, are advising Allied in its Chapter 11 case. Former Troutman partner Thomas Duffy serves as general counsel for Allied.
Mark Collins, chair of the corporate restructuring practice at Delaware’s Richards, Layton & Finger, is serving as local counsel to the debtor. Neither Richards Layton nor Troutman have yet filed billing statements with the bankruptcy court.
Latham & Watkins restructuring partner Robert Klyman in Los Angeles is advising Yucaipa, which owns nearly 63 percent of Allied, in the company’s bankruptcy case. Latham also appears on a list of Allied’s 20 largest unsecured creditors, with a claim of $250,052.
Northstar Aerospace
Seeking to scare up interest from a potential buyer, suburban Chicago-based aircraft parts manufacturer Northstar Aerospace filed for bankruptcy earlier this month in Delaware. The company, which also operates a facility in Lakeshore, Ontario, also sought protection under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
SNR Denton restructuring and insolvency partner Robert Richards ($650), environmental partner Jeffrey Fort ($745), IP partner Brian McGinley ($380), and corporate finance partner Matthew Garms ($375) are leading a team from the firm advising Northstar in its Chapter 11 case. Court records show that SNR Denton is charging its bankrupt client reduced hourly rates. The firm has received $693,401 from the debtor since January of this year, according to an affidavit by Richards.
Charlene Davis ($750), a bankruptcy partner at Bayard, is leading a team from the Delaware firm serving as local counsel to Northstar. Court records show that partners at the firm are billing between $500 and $890 per hour, while associates are billing at rates ranging from $310 to $485. Bayard has been paid a $65,000 retainer for its services.
David Anderson serves as general counsel for Northstar. The company was served a breach of contract notice from a major customer earlier this year, and Northstar’s finances have suffered in the face of expected budget cuts to defense industry spending in the United States, according to a report by Reuters.
Ritz Camera & Image
For Ritz Camera & Image, the bleak financial picture confronting the company is an all-too-familiar sight. The Beltsville, Maryland–based company found itself in bankruptcy for the second time in three years Friday when it sought Chapter 11 protection in Delaware.
Founded in 1918 as a one-man portrait studio, Ritz grew to more than 800 stores nationwide, before a shift to digital photography put the company out of focus. Ritz slashed more than 400 stores during its last stint in Chapter 11— which saw its namesake David Ritz win back control of the company—and plans to further reduce its operations by another 128 locations this time around.
Corporate restructuring partners Irving Walker and Patrick Reilley from Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard in Wilmington are serving as lead counsel to Ritz in its return to Chapter 11. The firm has not yet submitted billing statements with the bankruptcy court.
According to a list of Ritz’s 30 largest unsecured creditors, the company owes $204,637 to Philadelphia’s McCann Schaible & Wall and $96,618 to Alston & Bird. Cooley and Delaware’s Bifferato advised an official committee of unsecured creditors in Ritz’s last trip through bankruptcy.
Jeff Israel served as general counsel of Ritz until April of this year, when he became chief operating officer at Marietta, Georgia–based H&W Printing.