What a difference a month makes for New Jersey taxpayers.
When The Am Law Daily last plunged into the so-called Bridgegate scandal in early April, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration had reportedly racked up a reported $1 million in legal fees tied to the internal inquiry into the events surrounding last fall’s closing of traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. It now appears that tab could triple once all the bills related to the three-month probe are submitted.
Records obtained this week by The Record of Bergen County show that Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which led the investigation, billed the Christie administration $1.1 million for less than three weeks of work in January.
The bills in question cover the early stages of a probe that eventually yielded a 344-page report, which—when it was released in late March—largely cleared Christie himself of wrongdoing in connection with what has come to be known as Bridgegate.
The records reveal that the Gibson Dunn lawyers slashed their already heavily discounted hourly rates from $650 to $350 as the hours needed to conduct the inquiry quickly stacked up amid the intense scrutiny of both political observers and federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Newark.
Alexander Southwell, a former federal prosecutor who joined Gibson Dunn in 2007 and now serves as a litigation partner and cochair of the firm’s information technology and data privacy practice in New York, billed $77,000 for 220 hours of work over a 20-day stretch in January, according to The New York Times. (Southwell wrote about California’s privacy laws last year for sibling publication Law Technology News.)
Randy Mastro, cochair of Gibson Dunn’s litigation group, led the team conducting the probe. The other attorneys from the firm who worked on the matter include partners—and ex-federal prosecutors—Reed Brodsky, Debra Wong Yang and Avi Weitzman, according to sibling publication the New Jersey Law Journal, which has previously reported on the close relationships some of those lawyers have with Christie.
Meanwhile, the governor—the subject of a recent profile in The New Yorker—moved to put the bridge scandal behind him last month by nominating former New Jersey attorney general John Degnan to serve as head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Degnan succeeds David Samson, a founding partner of politically connected New Jersey firm Wolff & Samson, who resigned in late March as questions about his role in both the bridge incident and matters involving his private clients mounted.)
Gibson Dunn, which has also collected nearly $2.8 million in fees while representing New Jersey in litigation currently on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court involving the state’s effort to legalize sports betting, isn’t the only firm reaping Bridgegate benefits.
NJ.com reported this week that Jenner & Block has received more than $725,000 for serving as counsel to the Democratic-led legislative committee investigating the lane closures, with another $40,000 going to Hackensack, N.J.–based Sokol, Behot & Fiorenzo. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Christie’s reelection campaign has paid at least $160,000 to Patton Boggs for counsel in the Bridgegate affair—more than the campaign had on hand at the time of a quarterly campaign finance report last month.
Stroz Friedberg, a digital forensics and business intelligence shop that hired former Patton Boggs partner Scott Weber last month as a managing director, has received at least $154,000 for its work on behalf of Christie’s reelection campaign.
That Patton Boggs and Gibson Dunn are on the same side in the Bridgegate matter is notable given their adversarial positions in the hard-fought toxic tort case pitting Chevron against a group of Ecuadorean plaintiffs. The Ecuadoreans have vowed to upend this week’s $15 million settlement between Patton Boggs and Chevron over the firm’s role in the litigation.
In Detroit Chapter 9 Case, Jones Day Churns On
The Bridgegate legal bills pale next to those amassed by Jones Day, which is representing the city of Detroit in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Robert Fishman, an attorney with Chicago’s Shaw Fishman Glantz & Towbin who was hired last August to serve as fee examiner in the Chapter 9 case, submitted a quarterly report on May 6 detailing the city’s spending on outside advisers through December 31. For the most part, the fees listed by Fishman are in line with a similar breakdown provided to The Am Law Daily earlier this year by the office of Detroit emergency manager and former Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr.
Since coming aboard as the city’s lead restructuring counsel, Jones Day had submitted bills for fees and expenses totaling more than $17 million through the end of last year. Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, meanwhile, has received nearly $1.5 million for serving as local cocounsel to Motown, according to bankruptcy court filings. (Miller Canfield has two contracts with the city, one covering collective bargaining work and a second for restructuring-related matters.)
The other firms on Detroit’s bankruptcy payroll (and their fees as of December 31) include conflicts counsel Pepper Hamilton ($805,585); labor and employment counsel Dykema Gossett ($153,314); labor and employment counsel Foley & Lardner ($137,477); local bankruptcy firm Kilpatrick & Associates ($50,007); and local health care law shop Ottenwess, Taweel & Schenk ($9,884).
Dentons has received more than $4.6 million and suburban-Detroit based Brooks Wilkins Sharkey & Turco has been paid $275,065 for serving as counsel to an official committee of Motor City retirees. Fishman himself has submitted bills totaling $315,685 in fees in expenses connected to his firm’s work through December 31.
Apple’s Pricey e-Book Monitors
The boom in corporate monitors has begun to raise questions about the value the watchdogs provide to the companies that pay for their services.
Such questions arose earlier this year in connection with Apple’s battle with Goodwin Procter litigation partner Michael Bromwich over legal bills he submitted to the technology giant for overseeing its compliance with federal antitrust laws in the wake of the company’s e-book price-fixing litigation with the Justice Department.
Bromwich, a former Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson partner who left the firm in 2010 to serve as the Obama administration’s offshore oil drilling monitor, has hired former firm colleague Barry Nigro to advise him as monitor. While the initial hourly rates for Nigro, who chairs Fried Frank’s antitrust group, and Bromwich—billing through his consulting firm The Bromwich Group—were $1,100 and $1,025, respectively, court records show that both have renegotiated their rates.
Apple previously sought to oust Bromwich as monitor on the grounds that he had exceeded the scope of the job, accusing him in court filings of acting as an “independent prosecutor.” That gambit was mostly unsuccessful, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling that Bromwich could continue in the role but curtailing some of his authority.
The Litigation Daily, a sibling publication, reported this week that Apple and its Gibson Dunn lawyers are targeting Bromwich’s fees in appealing the e-books judgment. The company’s opening brief to the Second Circuit cites a combined $271,513 in fees and expenses related to the monitoring assignment billed to associate general counsel Doug Vetter in March.
Of that sum, The Bromwich Group billed $107,000, while Nigro and Fried Frank submitted bills for $136,498 in fees and expenses. Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber, a Washington, D.C.–based litigation boutique serving as a member of Bromwich’s monitoring team, is listed as billing Apple $28,016 for its services in March.
—Court records show and The Charleston Gazette reports that McGuireWoods, which grabbed the lead role advising Freedom Industries on its bankruptcy earlier this year after a West Virginia chemical spill, is seeking $1.8 million for its work on behalf of the debtor. U.S. Senate lobbying records show the firm has also received $200,000 since last year from the American Petroleum Institute, which has recently lashed out at the Obama administration over its delay in deciding whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. McGuireWoods was also hired last month by ExxonMobil to lobby on tax issues.
—Mayer Brown withdrew this month from a controversial suit in California that seeks the removal of a statue honoring “comfort women” forced into prostitution by Japanese imperial forces during World War II. Japan’s government is fighting efforts to draw attention to the matter, paying Hogan Lovells more than $523,000 to lobby on the issue, according to a report earlier this year by The Hill.
—New York State’s economic development has extended a $350,000 contract with Foley & Lardner as part of an effort to try to keep the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills in the Empire State, according to the Buffalo News. The team, which is likely to be sold later this year, is also seeking a new stadium.