Some of the biggest victories won by Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello are the cases that no one ever hears about, according to name partner Robert Anello. Representing white-collar clients who avoid prosecution — and the media spotlight — provides some of the most satisfying wins for the 44-lawyer operation.

"My heart is in the pre-indictment process," Anello said.

Still, the New York-based law firm, which retains its small-shop identity in a practice area increasingly dominated by big-firm white-collar practices, recorded a string of high-profile successes in 2012.

One of them was defending officers and directors at Merck & Co. Inc. accused by shareholders of suppressing unfavorable clinical-trial results for the cholesterol drug Vytorin. The plaintiffs alleged that the delay in reporting the findings resulted in a 23 percent plunge in sales once the results came to light.

In February, the parties settled. The damages? Zero. Merck, whose officers and directors were represented by Morvillo Abramowitz attorneys Edward Spiro, Lawrence Bader and James Stovall, agreed to revise its reporting obligations so that delays in releasing the results of clinical trials are reported to company officers and the reasons for the delays identified.

On the plaintiffs’ side during 2012, Morvillo Abramo­witz attorneys Elkan Abramowitz, Thomas Keane and Sid Kamaraju won $16 million for Donald Drapkin, former vice chairman of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., a company owned by Ronald Perelman. Drapkin sued his former employer in 2009, alleging breach of a severance and stock-purchase agreement. A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York awarded the verdict after deliberating for 90 minutes.

The firm scored victories for former officers and directors of Cayman Islands-based investment manager Absolute Capital Management Holdings Ltd., alleged to have orchestrated a stock-trading scheme that cost investors $195 million; and in a settlement for Deanna Oppenheimer, a former executive at Washington Mutual Inc. alleged to have misled investors about the health of the bank’s mortgage-lending business.

High-stakes Wall Street cases aren’t the only reason the law firm has made news. Earlier this month, name partner Barry Bohrer, along with two other lawyers, jumped to Schulte Roth & Zabel, which has about 370 lawyers. Anello, who said he remains on good terms with Bohrer, said that the departures would not affect the firm’s financial performance.

"I don’t see it having any impact on the bottom line," Anello said.

The higher the stakes, the lower the profile you want the case to have.
Avoid the instinct to try to see your name in press.
If press is unavoidable, remember: Less is more.
— Robert Anello, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello