In what seems to be turning into an August tradition of government regulators moving to block billion-dollar megamergers, the U.S. Department of Justice and six states moved Tuesday to scuttle a tentative $11 billion tie-up between US Airways Group and bankrupt American Airlines.

The proposed deal, which has pulled in nearly a dozen Am Law 100 firms since US Airways and American agreed to join forces in February, would create the world's largest airline. The burden of making that merger happen now falls in large part on the antitrust lawyers advising the two airlines. For Jones Day, lead counsel to American parent AMR Corp., the assignment is all the more challenging because the firm will be without the services of aviation industry veteran Andrew Steinberg.
Steinberg died at age 53 on May 20, 2012, as the result of complications related to eye cancer, according to an obituary in The Washington Post. His death was one in a trio of cancer-related partner losses suffered in Jones Day's Washington, D.C., office over a two-year period. The other deceased were antitrust partner Robert Jones and labor partner Andrew Kramer.
Jones Day antitrust partner Joe Sims, who is working with regulatory partner J. Bruce McDonald and litigation partner John Majoras in advising AMR on the proposed merger, says he knew all three former partners well. But it's Steinberg's loss that is being felt the most this time around.
"Any time you do anything in the airline business, Andy [Steinberg] always crosses your mind," Sims says. "I knew Andy when he was [an in-house lawyer] at AMR, and I knew him a lot better when he was at Jones Day."
Jones Day managing partner Stephen Brogan, who once headed the firm's D.C. office, issued a statement at the time of Steinberg's death mourning his loss and calling the late Jones Day partner "an outstanding regulatory lawyer who knew aviation law inside and out" and who was as "generous, committed, unassuming, and selfless as he was proficient."
Steinberg joined Jones Day as a partner in May 2008, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal. His two prior stops were the Federal Aviation Administration, which he joined as chief counsel in 2003, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, where he arrived as an assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs in 2006.
"He wasn't religious, but Andy was Talmudic in his mastery of [aviation] law and all of its regulations, and there are a lot of them," says Jeffrey Shane, a former Hogan Lovells partner and onetime Transportation Department undersecretary—the latter job one that saw Steinberg report to him. "It wasn't unusual for him to come into my office and put on my desk a 10-page white paper he'd written on some creative way to address a particular issue. Andy had these totally original ideas all predicated on a statute."
While at the Transportation Department, Steinberg helped craft a landmark " open skies" agreement between the U.S. and the European Union in 2007, testifying that same year at a Senate hearing on airline mergers in support of the creation of larger airlines, according to a story at the time by sibling publication the Daily Report.
"Contrary to what may have been suggested, having fewer, larger network carriers could result in having more services to smaller communities as they try to serve the entire country," Steinberg said, echoing a position put forth by US Airways. (Federal regulators ultimately approved Delta Air Lines's $3.63 billion all-stock merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008 and the $3 billion tie-up between Continental Airlines and United Airlines two years later.)
Before entering public service, Steinberg was the top in-house lawyer at online travel company Sabre Inc. and its Travelocity subsidiary, according to stories by sibling publications the NLJ and Texas Lawyer.
Sabre, which went public in 2000, began as an offshoot of American Airlines, where Steinberg served as an associate general counsel during the early nineties. In that role, he helped the Fort Worth–based carrier score a major victory in 1993 by beating an antitrust suit over allegedly "predatory pricing" practices filed by competitors Continental and Northwest.
AMR general counsel Gary Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment about Steinberg, who continued to advise the airline after joining Jones Day. Steinberg and McDonald acted as counsel to AMR, for instance, as it sought to invest $1.1 billion in struggling Oneworld alliance partner Japan Airlines (JAL), according to our previous reports. AMR received regulatory approval for its subsequent multiyear alliance agreement with JAL in March 2010.
Shane, who left Hogan Lovells earlier this year to become general counsel of Montreal-based aviation industry trade group the International Air Transport Association, says that when it came time for Steinberg to return to private practice, he took his time finding the right fit.
"Andy spent about two to three months considering his options very carefully," says Shane, noting that the two used to meet regularly for coffee. "And once he joined Jones Day, he knew he had found the perfect place, especially in the quality of his colleagues."
Shane says he can't remember Steinberg taking any time off during his Transportation Department stint to receive treatment for uveal melanoma, a cancer of the eye, which was why he was so surprised to hear last year that his former colleague had only weeks to live.
Unfortunately, though Steinberg had received treatment that sent his eye tumor into remission, the cancer returned and spread to his vital organs. Steinberg's wife Roxann put together a memorial service at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., says Shane, who was one of many in attendance. Among the others on hand were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, a former classmate of Steinberg's at both Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
"We all knew Andy, but I don't think we really understood how well-known and regarded he was in the community," Shane says. "There was a ubiquity about him, and I have no doubt he'd be there in spades [for AMR] right now."
Jones Day, of course, was a major player in the aviation industry well before Steinberg joined the firm. L. Welch Pogue, a former name partner at the firm who watched Jones Day's D.C. office undergo a historic split that created Crowell & Moring, once served as chairman of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board.
Pogue, who passed away a decade ago at 103, has an aviation lifetime achievement award named in his honor by industry publication Aviation Week & Space Technology. Shane, who won the award in 2006, says Steinberg was poised to receive the honor last year before his death.
Now, Jones Day's antitrust and aviation lawyers will forge on in his absence, as AMR will seek to overcome the objections brought by the Justice Department and state attorneys general for Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.
Filings in AMR's Chapter 11 case show that Jones Day has received $196,000 so far for its services as lead antitrust counsel to the debtor, according to the airline's most recent monthly operating report.
The same report shows that Paul Hastings, which is serving as AMR's special labor and antitrust counsel, was paid $353,000 in June, bringing its total haul since the beginning of the year to roughly $4.4 million. Weil, Gotshal & Manges, lead counsel to the debtor, has received $18.3 million from AMR during that same period.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, counsel to an official committee of unsecured AMR creditors, has been paid nearly $7.4 million since the beginning of this year, while cocounsel Togut, Segal & Segal has received almost $2 million. Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy has received another $1.7 million since January for its role advising a group of bondholders, and Jenner & Block has billed $2.7 million for its work as counsel to a committee of AMR retirees.
Other firms racking up fees as a result of their work for AMR this year include special aircraft counsel Debevoise & Plimpton ($9.9 million), special benefits counsel the Groom Law Group ($2 million), special litigation counsel Yetter Coleman ($1.7 million), special labor and employment counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius ($1.1 million), and special IP counsel Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione ($909,000).
The Am Law Daily reported in 2010 on the tragic death in a plane crash of Yetter Coleman founding partner Gregory Coleman, a former head of the national appellate litigation practice at Weil. Coleman, who was also Texas's first solicitor general, was only 47.