In this age of increased competition in the high-end market for legal services, it helps to know what your rivals are making—or missing—from certain engagements. Fee Tracker will periodically seek to help you sift through public records and other data showing the money behind the myriad bankruptcies, IPOs, lobbying engagements and other client matters that emerge each month. If you know of anything we missed or wish to share a confidential tip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lobbyists are thought to be riding high these days in Washington, D.C., where the rise of the Trump administration has many of the 10,000 registered advocates eager to exert their influence in the “Swamp,” as noted in a recent feature story by the New York Times Magazine.
But the talk of a feeding frenzy appears to be a bit overblown. The Huffington Post reported this week that federal lobbying during the third quarter of 2017 was at its lowest levels since at least 2008, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld took in $9.6 million to top third quarter lobbying rankings compiled by Politico and The Hill. The firm, which reshuffled its lobbying leadership earlier this year, beat out Am Law 200 competitors like Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ($7.2 million), Squire Patton Boggs ($6.3 million), Holland & Knight ($5.6 million), Covington & Burling ($4.4 million) and K&L Gates ($4.2 million).
The top five spenders on lobbying work during the third quarter were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($13.1 million), the National Association of Realtors ($11.1 million), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($5.6 million), the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform ($4.9 million) and the American Medical Association ($4.9 million).
U.S. Senate filings show that PhRMA paid $330,000 to Covington during the third quarter to lobby on a variety of drug importation, patent and biopharmaceutical regulatory issues, while Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer received $100,000 from the organization to advocate on health care reform proposals. Akin Gump got $80,000 from PhRMA to advise on federal health care programs, as Baker & Hostetler took in the same amount for similar third quarter work.
The U.S. Chamber’s ILT paid $150,000 to Akin Gump during the third quarter for arbitration advocacy and False Claims Act matters during the third quarter, while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom received $120,000 to advise on legislation for asbestos class actions, with Brownstein Hyatt bagging another $60,000 from the ILT for its asbestos advocacy work.
Greenberg Traurig got $120,000 from the ILT to lobby on opioid abuse legislation and health care “outreach” issues. The ILT also paid $10,000 to King & Spalding to handle drug advertising legislation, and sent another $5,000 to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius after the firm was retained by the organization on Oct. 20 to begin advising on “clarifying corporate compliance expectations and prosecution guidance.” Mayer Brown earned $100,000 from the U.S. Chamber itself during the third quarter to lobby on unspecified legal reform issues and Jones Walker received another $10,000 from the body to advise on financial services reform.
In the News
The nation’s growing opioid abuse crisis made more headlines a week ago following a joint investigative report by CBS Corp.’s “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post that rather quickly resulted in Pennsylvania Rep. Thomas Marino withdrawing his name from consideration as President Trump’s next drug czar.
The joint report, which noted the private practice roles of former top DEA officials D. Linden Barber, Michael Gill and Jason Hadges, also revealed the legislative and lobbying process behind the passage of a federal law signed by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s control over opioid distributors. The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), an Arlington, Virginia-based industry trade group that pushed for the legislation, paid $383,070 to Arent Fox and $336,495 to Washington, D.C.-based boutique Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz for legal services in 2015, according to the organization’s most recent federal tax filing. The HDA also paid another $254,655 to Brown Rudnick and $300,000 to Tarplin, Downs & Young for federal lobbying work last year.
AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., the three largest opioid distributors in the U.S., have also kept their own outside lobbyists busy. AmerisourceBergen paid $190,000 to Nossaman, $140,000 to Dentons and $105,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Law Offices of Frederick H. Graefe—whose namesake is a former partner at Baker & Hostetler and Hunton & Williams—between Jan. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30 of this year. During that same timeframe, Crowell & Moring received $290,000 from Cardinal Health to advise on the potential repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, while McKesson paid $110,000 to Van Ness Feldman and $120,000 to Hooper, Lundy & Bookman.
Capital Markets Roundup
Ablynx NV, a biotechnology company based in Ghent, Belgium, raised $200 million through an initial public offering this week that generated $1.83 million in legal fees and expenses for its lawyers from Goodwin Procter and Belgian firm Eubelius CVBA, according to securities filings. Davis Polk & Wardwell and Linklaters took the lead for underwriters on the offering.
BP Midstream Partners LP, a master limited partnership formed by British energy giant BP plc to operate its crude and refined oil pipelines in the U.S., set the terms last week for an IPO that seeks to raise up to $893 million. Vinson & Elkins is advising BP Midstream on the listing, one that securities filings show will yield $1.6 million in legal fees and expenses for the firm. Baker Botts is representing underwriters on the IPO.
Evoqua Water Technologies Corp., a Pittsburgh-based water treatment services and systems company, set the terms this week for a $500 million initial public offering. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is advising Evoqua on its listing, according to securities filings, which show that the firm will receive roughly $3 million in legal fees and expenses for its work.
Evoqua, backed by private equity firm AEA Investors LP, notes that Fried Frank owns an indirect interest in less than 1 percent of its common stock through limited partnership interests in AEA funds. Earlier this month, it emerged that industrial conglomerate Honeywell International Inc. is reportedly interested in buying Evoqua, whose general counsel is Vincent Grieco.
Beijing-based Rise Education Cayman Ltd., a leader in China’s junior English language training market, raised at least $160 million through an IPO last week on the Nasdaq. The listing also generated $2.2 million in legal fees and expenses for RISE Education’s lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis, China’s Haiwen & Partners and offshore firm Maples and Calder, according to a securities filing. Davis Polk and China’s Fangda Partners advised underwriters on the offering.
Switch Inc., a Las Vegas-based data center company, raised $531.3 million through an IPO earlier this month that a securities filing shows generated $2.3 million in legal fees and expenses for its lawyers at Latham & Watkins and Greenberg Traurig. Goodwin Procter represented underwriters on the listing by Switch, whose president and general counsel is Thomas Morton, a former lawyer at DLA Piper and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
Capitol Hill Coinage
Equifax Inc., which has enlisted the aid of outside legal advisers since publicly disclosing last month a massive hack of customer information, stated in an Oct. 20 filing with the Senate that it had retained DLA Piper for “response to congressional inquiries regarding” the data breach. DLA Piper received a $20,000 payment from Equifax last week for its work in the matter. The Atlanta-based consumer credit reporting agency also paid $120,000 to Arnall Golden Gregory to lobby on identity authentication and immigration issues and $40,000 to Akin Gump to advise on “eligibility verification issues.” Dykema Gossett received $30,000 from Equifax during the third quarter to lobby in support of funding for programs that seek to reduce or eliminate the improper payment of benefits by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Politico reported earlier this month that the Cayman Islands, a bastion of the offshore financial services sector, has hired Baker Botts government relations partner Jeffrey Munk in Washington, D.C., to lobby on tax reform issues. Documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show that on Jan. 1, 2018, Baker Botts will begin receiving $12,500 per month for its services on behalf of the British Overseas Territory.
The New York Law Journal reported last week that Brown & Weinraub took in $5.2 million in lobbying revenue during the first six months of this year, making it the top earner in the Empire State. The firm, which has offices in Albany and Manhattan, beat out larger rivals like Greenberg Traurig ($3.87 million), Albany’s Hinman Straub ($3.12 million), Jackson Lewis ($2.61 million) and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips ($2.44 million).
Federal Election Commission filings revealed last week that President Trump’s campaign and the two joint committees it has formed with the Republican Party saw a sharp increase in their outside legal expenditures between July 1 and Sept. 30. Jones Day, a firm with close ties to the Trump administration, received about $830,000 during that timeframe, while the Republican National Committee paid roughly $230,000 to Trump’s personal lawyers Jay Sekulow and John Dowd, a retired Akin Gump partner. Alan Futerfas, a New York lawyer retained this summer to represent Donald Trump Jr., received $237,924 for his work.
The Frankfort Plant Board, an electric utility that provides a variety of services to Kentucky’s capital city of Frankfort, authorized this month the hire of Reed Smith on a $50,000 legal services contract, according to The State Journal. The FPB, which just appointed a new interim director, will use Reed Smith to review its relationship with the Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency.
Out of Pocket, In the Red
In a quest to put on hold an expensive legal battle with major movie studios, family-friendly film screening and streaming service VidAngel filed for bankruptcy in Salt Lake City on Oct. 18. The Provo, Utah-based startup, whose general counsel is ex-Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan founding partner David Quinto, does not list any outside law firms among its 20 largest unsecured creditors. Stris & Maher and Baker Marquart are advising VidAngel in litigation with the studios. VidAngel paid a $75,000 retainer to Parsons Behle & Latimer to handle its Chapter 11 case, according to an affidavit by J. Thomas Beckett, a partner at the Utah-based firm.
Nashville-based used car auto chain Auto Masters LLC filed for bankruptcy in the Music City on Oct. 17, citing a change in lending policies by Capital One Financial Corp. Court filings show that Auto Masters owes $23,118.17 to Birmingham, Alabama-based Am Law 200 firm Burr & Forman for legal services. Dunham Hildenbrand is advising the debtor in its Chapter 11 case.
Denver-based Mac Acquisition LLC, the parent company of casual Italian dining chain Romano’s Macaroni Grill, filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on Oct. 18. The debtor, which court records show owes $193,568.80 to Am Law 200 labor and employment firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, has attributed its troubles to the changing tastes of customers. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Delaware’s Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor are representing Mac Acquisition in bankruptcy court.
Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., which sold off Macaroni Grill in 2015 following a disastrous acquisition of the chain two years earlier, filed for bankruptcy in June, owing money to two other labor and employment firms in Fisher & Phillips ($166,729.27) and Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete ($52,954.48). Billionaire Tilman Fertitta won a bankruptcy auction for Ignite, owner of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap, in August. King & Spalding billed Ignite for $1.14 million in legal fees and expenses incurred on behalf of the debtor between June 6 and Aug. 31. Court filings show that the firm invoiced another $1.54 million to the debtor in the 90 days prior to its Chapter 11 case.