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United States > Finance > Restructuring (including bankruptcy): municipal > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Restructuring (including bankruptcy): municipal
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

  1. 1

Arent Fox LLP’s municipal restructuring practice is built upon expertise in municipal finance, municipal bankruptcy and public pensions, enabling it to advise across the full breadth of issues, including at the intersection of employee benefits and bankruptcy. In the wake of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, a team led by David Dubrow and Carol Connor Cohen was retained by numerous clients, including Ambac Assurance, Centerbridge Partners, Vanguard Mutual Funds and Roosevelt Investment Group, to analyze bond structure risks, evaluate proposed legislation and assess potential new bond issuances by the commonwealth. Other recent work includes advising new client Kroll Bond Rating Agency on municipal bankruptcy risks associated with a variety of bond structures, from general obligation bonds to various forms of revenue bond. Dubrow and Les Jacobowitz are based in New York, Connor Cohen and public pensions expert Caroline Turner English are Washington DC based.

New York-based Chadbourne & Parke LLP mainly acts for bond insurers, such as the National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation, and bondholders. A key client is municipal bond insurer Assured Guaranty, and it has done a significant volume of work for the client in relation to the Chapter 9s of the City of Detroit and Jefferson County. Recently, the team assisted Assured Guaranty with obtaining protections for bondholders in the revisions to the New Jersey Statutes concerning its exposure over $100m in bonds issued by Atlantic City, which is in a financial crisis due to the collapse of the casino industry. Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis is also keeping the team busy - it is advising several hedge funds, including Morgan Stanley and Owl Creek Asset Management, on existing and potential investments in Puerto Rico-issued securities. The key partners in all municipal restructuring and bankruptcy matters are Lawrence Larose and Samuel Kohn.

Jones Day is a ‘dedicated adviser’ with strong experience in the municipal restructuring and bankruptcy space. Serving as lead restructuring counsel to the City of Detroit, and acting for Franklin Advisers as a creditor in the City of Stockton’s Chapter 9, has brought much attention to the practice - and both matters continue to generate work. It is also advising a group of Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority bondholders and a group of holders of Employees Retirement System of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico bonds on their rights and remedies, and on any restructuring efforts undertaken by the issuers. Notable lawyers include David Heiman and Heather Lennox, who split their time between New York and Cleveland; Amy Edgy and Jeffrey Ellman in Atlanta; and Mark Cody in Chicago. In Los Angeles, Bruce Bennett and James Johnston are held in high regard, while Joshua Morse is a standout name in the San Francisco office.

Los Angeles-based Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP focuses on corporate finance, M&A and restructuring, and has gained a reputation in the municipal restructuring space through its representation of several municipal debtors, including Jefferson County and the Californian town of Mammoth Lakes. While all name partners are renowned practitioners in the area, Kenneth Klee and Michael Tuchin are particularly recommended.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is best known for its debtor-side representations, and in particular for its notable work on behalf of the Californian cities of Stockton and Vallejo. It does take on creditor mandates, however, and has handled public finance and infrastructure restructuring work in relation to Jefferson County, Orange County and Wayne County. Another source of work has been Puerto Rico, where the key names are Douglas Mintz in Washington DC and New York-based Lorraine McGowen, who has expertise in creditors’ rights litigation. San Francisco-based John Knox adds public finance expertise to the practice. The pactice head is Sacramento-based Marc Levinson.

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP combines expertise in municipal finance, financial restructuring and bankruptcy, providing advisory and litigation services, and has had notable roles in the Chapter 9s of Detroit, Orange County and Jefferson County. Recent work includes advising monoline insurance companies Assured Guaranty and Assured Guaranty Municipal on the potential workout or restructuring of insured general government obligations, swaps and debt issuances by Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities. Mark Ellenberg - who splits his time between Washington DC and New York - and Lary Stromfeld co-head the distressed municipal finance team, which also includes Ingrid Bagby, Thomas Curtin and Michele Maman. Ivan Loncar frequently represents dealers, banks and other financial institutions. All mentioned are based in New York, unless otherwise stated.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s municipal restructuring practice is recognized for its ‘excellent development in recent years’. In a hugely significant case, James Sprayregen, who splits his time between New York and Chicago, and New York-based Paul Basta are acting for Puerto Rico in the defense of the constitutionality of the Puerto Rico Public Sector Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act (the ‘Recovery Act’), which was enacted to give the commonwealth’s corporations a way of restructuring their debts. Following a challenge to the act by two bond funds, it was ruled unconstitutional by Puerto Rico District Court, a ruling that was affirmed by the First Circuit following an appeal by the firm. The firm is now seeking a Supreme Court review. Chicago-based Ryan Bennett is another name to note.

At Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, the key figures are New York-based Thomas Moers Mayer and Amy Caton. A high-level victory was achieved when representing holders of over $1.5bn in Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority bonds in a constitutional challenge to the commonwealth’s Recovery Act at both the district court and the First Circuit. Other work includes defending an ad hoc group of holders of more than $1bn of certificates of participation in proceedings brought by the City of Detroit, as well as other litigation relating to the city’s bankruptcy.

Working mostly on the creditor side, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. advises bondholders, bond trustees and bond insurers, including three of the largest institutional holders of Detroit water and sewer debt, whose bonds were reinstated in full in December 2014. In state court insolvency proceedings involving the quasi-public Central Falls Detention Center Corporation, the firm advised the indenture trustee. In relation to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, it represents numerous mutual funds and secondary market buyers concerning the restructuring of bonds. On all matters, the public finance and bankruptcy practices work hand-in-hand. Notable practitioners within the Boston-based team are Adrienne Walker, Richard Moche, Ann-Ellen Hornidge and Michael Gardener. It is led by the ‘very thoughtful and knowledgeable’ William Kannel; Ian Hammel is recognized for being ‘excellent on sensitive arrangements’.

Combining highly acclaimed bankruptcy and public finance practices, Sidley Austin LLP acts on major municipal debt restructurings and bankruptcies, representing bondholders, bond insurers, bond trustees and other stakeholders. On the public finance side, San Francisco-based Eric Tashman is the name to note. The bankruptcy team includes Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Bjork and Gabe MacConaill, who are recommended along with Washington DC-based Guy Neal. The latter three represented National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation, an insurer of over $2bn of Detroit’s debt obligations, in connection with the city’s Chapter 9 proceedings. In other recent work, the team represented Assured Guaranty in relation to the bankruptcy proceedings of the cities of Stockton and San Bernardino.

Ballard Spahr LLP’s municipal recovery practice, which is led by William Rhodes, has won notable mandates in restructuring matters relating to Detroit, Jefferson County and Harrisburg. Current work includes representing an affiliate of a large European bank, which had purchased over $50m of pension obligation bonds issued by the City of San Bernardino, in a lawsuit; the client sought a declaration regarding the nature of the obligation evidenced by the bonds and their equitable treatment in relation to the pension funding obligations. Additionally, the practice regularly represents special services districts in dealing with defaulting developers or property owners and bondholders demanding payment. It is highly rated for its expertise in adjacent areas such as public sector labor, tax and government relations. Rhodes, Kevin Cunningham and Vincent Marriott (who heads the bankruptcy, reorganization and capital recovery group) are based in Philadelphia. Also recommended is Salt Lake City-based litigator Mark Gaylord. In Washington DC, special counsel Pauline Schneider retired in late 2015.

Dentons attracts praise for its recent successes in the municipal restructuring arena. Notably, Carole Neville, Claude Montgomery, both in New York, and Washington DC-based Sam Alberts represented the Official Committee of Retirees of the City of Detroit, which held more than half the city’s liabilities, in negotiating the elimination of more than $7bn of debt while maintaining most pension benefits and continued healthcare. San Francisco-based Mark Kaufman has an excellent reputation for representing fiscally challenged municipalities and other stakeholders in restructurings; for example, the governor-appointed receiver of the City of Harrisburg in its out-of-court restructuring.

Jenner & Block LLP significantly boosted its workout, bankruptcy and reorganization practice in 2015 by adding Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s former head of restructuring, Richard Levin, to its New York office. While still at his previous firm, he advised the Detroit Institute of Arts on the city’s Chapter 9 filing, protecting the collection and the museum building from the city’s obligations to creditors. Other notable work includes advising the City of Gardena in negotiating a workout with banks, thereby avoiding a Chapter 9 filing.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP has a long track record acting in municipal bankruptcies and restructurings, and is currently advising stakeholders on the fiscal crises of Puerto Rico and the City of Chicago. In relation to the latter, the firm is advising various insurers of debt and counterparties in swap transactions. Key advisers are Chicago-based William Smith and Nathan Coco, both ‘outstanding attorneys’, and David Taub and Douglas Youngman in New York.

Reed Smith LLP is experienced in acting for indenture trustees and bond holders in litigation and restructurings, and represented UMB Bank as indenture trustee concerning the issuance of $270m of income tax revenue bonds by the Michigan Financial Authority and the City of Detroit in the exit financing under the city’s Chapter 9 plan of adjustment. Other clients include secured lenders, creditors’ committees, insurance companies and debtors. Eric Schaffer, who splits his time between Pittsburgh and New York, is the key name on the bankruptcy side; William Richter is a public finance expert.

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