Given that The Am Law Daily can only cover so much news during the course of a week, we’ve compiled this handy digest of stories of interest for those who follow the legal beat and related subjects.
CLIFF-DIVING: A potential fall off the fiscal cliff might be good news for some lawyers, but what about the rest of us? The Economist and The Guardian examine what exactly heading over the precipice might mean for the United States, while also debunking some of the myths surrounding such a plunge.
SWERVING SENATOR: U.S. Senator Michael Crapo—an Idaho Republican and Harvard Law School graduate due to become the ranking GOP member on the Senate banking committee—was arrested just before Christmas and charged with driving while intoxicated in suburban Washington, D.C. The Washington Post and other news outlets cited court documents in reporting that Crapo told the officer who pulled him over that he had consumed several vodka shots earlier in the evening. Crapo—a Mormon who was an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in the seventies before returning to his home state to start Idaho Falls–based Holden, Kidwell, Hahn & Crapo—subsequently issued a statement apologizing for the incident.
SINGAPORE FLING: It’s not just U.S. lawyers-turned-politicians who are getting in trouble. Earlier this month a member of Singapore’s ruling party, parliament speaker Michael Palmer, resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair. Palmer also serves as head of the sports practice at local firm the Harry Elias Partnership. (While Am Law 100 lawyers practicing in Asia usually shy away from politics, Davis Polk & Wardwell corporate partner Show-Mao Chen—whom The American Lawyer named a Dealmaker of the Year in 2011—was one of six members of Singapore’s opposition party to win seats in the country’s parliamentary elections.)
CONSERVATIVE CRUISE: Former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo—who earlier this year won a federal appellate court ruling backing his argument that he can’t be sued for allegedly authorizing the use of torture in the interrogation of enemy combatants—was among a boatload of Republicans seeking to put Mitt Romney’s presidential loss behind them on a Caribbean cruise chronicled by New York magazine’s Joe Hagan. (The Boston Globe offered its own take on Romney’s unsuccessful campaign this week.)
PUBLICITY PITCH: We know from firsthand experience that large law firms appreciate the value of good public relations. Which is why we read with interest the news that Reed Smith selected Ogilvy Public Relations to handle its corporate portfolio across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. PR Week reports that Ogilvy prevailed in a pitch process involving 19 PR firms when Reed Smith began soliciting proposals in August for those seeking to handle the Pittsburgh-based firm’s work as it expands its international footprint.
GUN OWNERS UNDER FIRE: As the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting earlier this month continues to unfold—with Wal-Mart selling out its stock of weapons and video game company EA removing links to online gun sellers from its Medal of Honor site—The Journal News of Westchester, New York, ignited a fresh controversy by publishing the addresses of registered gun owners in several suburban counties in connection with a story about “the gun owner next store.” We won’t be surprised if the names of some prominent attorneys show up on the list of those exercising their Second Amendment rights.
WALMART REDUX: The retail giant’s operations in Mexico—already the subject of bribery allegations that three Am Law 100 firms have been tapped to contend with—were the focus of another New York Times investigative report this month. Sibling publication Corporate Counsel took its own look at one of Wal-Mart’s former in-house lawyers in Mexico, Sergio Cicero Zapata, while reporting separately on the parent company’s elevation of in-house lawyer Karen Roberts to the general counsel position.
OIL ALL AROUND: Everyone, it seems, goes where the oil is these days, as hydraulic fracturing opens up opportunities for lawyers from North Dakota to Texas, young workers in Montana, Matt Damon in Hollywood, and even Swedes in Norway. But as a federal judge gets set to approve BP’s $7.8 billion oil spill class action settlement, Ars Technica reminds us that not even lawyers and the legal system are the solution to everything. The technology news and information website published an excellent story this month about how a team of engineers and technicians plugged the massive Deepwater Horizon spill two years ago.
MONGOLIA MESS: Only a few months ago, Mongolia’s vast natural resources were singing a siren song to international law firms. Alas, The New York Times recently reported that the country’s restrictive foreign investment laws and complications surrounding a major mining deal have killed some of the buzz. This week Sarah Armstrong, an Australian in-house lawyer for Rio Tinto affiliate SouthGobi Resources, was finally allowed to leave the country after being held as a virtual prisoner for two months while she was questioned amid a corruption probe being conducted by Mongolian regulators.
RUGGED RUNNERS: The New York Times looked this month at the weekend warriors of Wall Street who enjoy gritting it out in competitions like the Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash. Guy Livingstone, cofounder and president of Tough Mudder, once worked at Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy. Other lawyers on the organization’s staff include current chief legal officer and former O’Melveny & Myers and White & Case partner Marc Ackerman, assistant general counsel Brendan Driscoll and Megan Jones, and associate counsel Brian Von Ancken. In September, Norton Rose saw 12 of its lawyers Down Under take part in a Tough Mudder endurance run.
SHIFTING GEARS: After being waylaid by natural disasters in 2011, Toyota rebounded to reclaim its title as the world’s largest automaker this year. The company will need every bit of that largesse now that it has agreed to take a $1.1 billion charge to settle class action sudden-acceleration lawsuits filed in the U.S. The deal is a windfall for Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, the Seattle-based firm serving as lead plaintiffs counsel that stands to reap up to $200 million in attorney fees for its efforts, according to sibling publication The Recorder. Toyota, whose lawyers from Alston & Bird don’t intend to oppose those fees, was also fined $17.4 million last week for taking too long to report safety issues to U.S. authorities. Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota in-house lawyer who has accused the company of discovery violations in product liability cases, lost a bid earlier this year to overturn a $2.5 million arbitration award against him by the automaker.
UKRAINE HEADACHE: A week after Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom issued a 303-page report concluding that politics hadn’t played a part in the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, she and her lawyer Sergiy Vlasenko are now asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to look into the circumstances surrounding Skadden’s hiring. Tymoshenko and Vlasenko note that the country’s government did not conduct a tender offer for the work. Covington & Burling, Holder’s former professional home, concluded in 2011 that the case against Tymoshenko was politically motivated and had no legal basis.
NEWSWEEK’S LAST GASP?: Covington and Skadden both played key roles in recent years as Newsweek, the weekly newsmagazine that was once the stomping grounds of ALM vice president and editor in chief Aric Press, changed its ownership. Along with Williams & Connolly, Covington advised The Washington Post Company on the $1 sale of Newsweek in 2010 to the late Sidney Harman; Skadden stepped in a few months later to set up a merger with the Daily Beast website. Those deals couldn’t save the struggling publication, and this week Newsweek published its last print edition as it shifts to an all-digital format.
REST OF THE BEST: Finally, the end of 2012 means it’s time to roll out those annual best—and worst—lists and packages. Among those that caught our eye: Time‘s Man of the Year, a year-in-review of legal news (in the U.K. too), a wish list for law firm leaders, our colleague Tony Mauro’s guide to the latest crop of Supreme Court books, dealmaker triumphs and foibles, the worst new law, and the worst CEOs (some of whom resemble movie villains). The New Yorker even whipped up its own list of the 100 best lists of all time. And while there are no flying cars in sight, Google would like its self-driving technology to go mainstream, so perhaps the future does indeed remain bright.