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United States > M&A/corporate and commercial > Corporate governance > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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Leading lawyers

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IP specialist Finnegan detail how their collaborative approach makes for a unique culture which is designed to allow them to work with clients in a way which is cognizant of the challenges facing all companies today.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP advises a range of well-known companies on shareholder engagement campaigns and public company disclosure requirements. Pamela Marcogliese, Nicolas Grabar and Ethan Klingsberg advised Tiffany & Co on a shareholder activism campaign, and Sandra Flow, Mary Alcock and Victor Lewkow also act for household-name companies in this space. Non-activism work included Marcogliese and Klingsberg advising Alphabet Inc, Google’s holding company, on ongoing matters related to the reorganization from which it was formed, and Marcogliese and David Lopez assisting Sabre Corporation with its mandatory disclosures. Other clients include Petrobras, which Graba is advising on US securities matters regarding the Lava Jato scandal; Arthur Kohn and Jeffrey Karpf are also key contacts and advised Verizon on producing its proxy statements. All named lawyers are located in New York.

Hogan Lovells US LLP provides an ‘excellent level of service - the team is always available and responsive, has significant expertise and provides practical advice on complicated and challenging legal issues’, including in relation to public company disclosures and leadership changes. Practice head Alan Dye has ‘strong subject matter expertise and does a good job of providing practical and actionable solutions’; he assisted The Coca-Cola Company with the appointment of James Quincey as CEO following the retirement of Muhtar Kent. Amy Bowerman Freed, who also works with Lockheed Martin, continues to advise 21st Century Fox on the US securities law elements of its plans to purchase the 61% it does not own of Sky plc. Richard Parrino, who advises Dell Technologies on disclosures and dealings with the SEC, is ‘quick to resolve any issues and greatly values client relationships - he also brings incredible subject matter expertise to the table’. John Beckman, who continues to advise Brown-Forman Corporation, and Alex Bahn, who handles sensitive CEO transitions, are also key contacts. Above-mentioned lawyers are located in Washington DC, but in McLean Kevin Greenslade is ‘a great lawyer who excels at problem solving’.

Latham & Watkins LLP advises company-side clients in shareholder activism campaigns, as well as assisting with public company regulatory and hostile takeover defense matters. Keith Halverstam, Thomas Malone and Orange County-based Charles Ruck advised Cognizant Technology Solutions on a campaign by Elliott Management, which ended with the addition of three directors to the board, one of whom was nominated by Elliott. Chicago-based Bradley Faris led a team advising Accuride Corporation, which obtained shareholder approval for its sale to funds managed by Crestview Advisors despite the objection of a 19% owner. Thomas Christopher represented NRG Energy in its battle with both Elliott Management and Bluescape Energy Partners. In Los Angeles, Steven Stokdyk and Paul Tosetti advised Motorcar Parts of America on defending an activist campaign, while in San Diego Craig Garner advised ViaSat Inc on its subjection to an alleged ‘bear raid’. Joel Trotter in Washington DC is a key name of note for governance and securities reviews - he advised VEON, formerly known as VimpelCom, on issues regarding its status as a Nasdaq-listed foreign private issuer. Other clients for general public company securities and governance matters include Energy Transfer Partners, Allergan, Caesars Entertainment and Advanced Micro Devices. Unless indicated otherwise, named attorneys are based in New York.

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP handles activist campaigns for a range of leading hedge funds. Marc Weingarten and Aneliya Crawford (a new hire from Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP) advised Trian Fund Management on, among other matters, its proxy fight with Procter & Gamble, securing the appointment of the manager’s co-founder Nelson Peltz to P&G’s board. Weingarten and Eleazer Klein continue to advise Elliott Management on its engagement with the management of Marathon Petroleum. In addition, Klein advised Blue Harbour on its successful campaign at WebMD, securing the company’s sale to KKR. Other clients include JANA Partners (for which the firm secured seats on Bristol-Meyers Squibb’s and Tiffany & Co.’s boards), Cevian Capital and Saba Capital Management.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP handles a range of work around corporate transactions, as well as work concerning leadership changes and proxy contests. Francis Aquila, Marc Treviño and litigator Julia Jordan advised Cheniere Energy on a proxy contest and change of leadership, while Joseph Frumkin and Krishna Veeraraghavan advised a target of Elliot Management. Keith Pagnani spearheaded a team advising The Priceline Group on installing a new chairman and CEO. Treviño, who has executive compensation expertise, heads the practice. All named partners are based in New York.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP’s public company advisory group handles a range of work regarding public company securities, leadership changes and activist battles. Adé Heyliger, Michael Aiello and Sachin Kohli advised Procter & Gamble on a proxy contest instigated by Trian Partners. Ellen Odoner’s advice to public companies included advising Westinghouse Electric on the securities aspects of its Chapter 11 insolvency. P.J. Himelfarb advised Signet Jewelers on several governance issues, including welcoming a new CEO. Howard Dicker continues to advise Dow Chemical on governance and securities issues relating to its merger with DuPont. Lyuba Goltser is also a key contact. Heyliger and Himelfarb are based in Washington DC, but other named lawyers are located in New York.

Arnold & Porter handles a range of special committee representations and high-level issues relating to disclosures requirements and directors’ duties. Michael L. Bernstein’s work spans D&O insurance litigation defense and he recently defended the former CEO of Essar Steel Minnesota in Delaware litigation following the company’s bankruptcy; he is also representing private equity house American Capital and several of its directors in a case brought by the trustees in the bankruptcy of a failed portfolio company. Litigation partner John Massaro handles claimant cases against boards. The firm has a presence in the nonprofit governance space - James Joseph advised Wounded Warrior Project on a governance project running alongside a restructuring, amid allegations of administrative overspending. Andrew Varner represents companies subject to shareholder campaigns. The aforementioned lawyers are located in Washington DC, however Nicholas O’Keefe in Silicon Valley also handles shareholder activism matters.

According to one respondent, Baker & Hostetler LLP provides ‘unmatched expertise - it’s head and shoulders above other law firms, clients are never disappointed’. The firm handles a range of work regarding public company governance, including leadership changes, securities issues and conflict-of-interest issues. Janet Spreen, who handles work concerning governance structure reviews and senior management transitions, is ‘excellent at issue-spotting and gives reasonable, usable advice - she understands the specific nuances of each situation and responds accordingly’. Suzanne Hanselman advised Barnes & Noble Education on conflict-of-interest issues regarding a proposed change of financial adviser. Jeffrey Decker in Orlando, who advises Chesapeake Utilities Corporation, and Robert Weible are also key contacts. Unless stated otherwise, named lawyers are located in Cleveland.

Jones Day has ‘a team of talented and knowledgeable lawyers that, without fail, respond to clients’ needs with the same urgency they are experiencing themselves’. The firm handles a range of governance matters, including the warding off of leading activist hedge funds. Lizanne Thomas in Atlanta has an ‘extraordinary ability to manage boards through complex and unusual governance issues’ - she and Robert Profusek in New York represented Procter & Gamble in its proxy fight with Trian Fund Management. Thomas also advised comScore on its settlement with Starboard Value. In Cleveland, Peter Izanec and George Hunter advised Wayne Savings Bancshares on its successful defense against a campaign by Stilwell Activist Investments. Other clients include Reynolds American and Marathon Petroleum.

King & Spalding LLP handles a range of matters concerning hedge fund shareholder engagement and structural governance matters. Jim Woolery in New York, who joined in May 2017 from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, handles a range of shareholder activism work, including advising a special committee of the independent directors of comScore on engagement by Starboard Value - four new independent directors were added to the board. Rob Leclerc is also a key contact in New York, with Cal Smith and Jeff Stein key contacts in the firm’s Atlanta office. Other clients include Equifax, Energizer and Under Armour.

Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP advises leading activist hedge funds on their campaigns. Steve Wolosky and Andrew Freedman advised Elliott Management on its contest at Arconic, securing three seats on the board and the replacement of the CEO; the pair also advised the client on an agreement with CDK Global, securing two independent directors. Another client is Starboard Value, which Wolosky and Freedman advised on its agreement with Yahoo! regarding the sale of Yahoo!’s core business to Verizon and its re-establishment as Altaba, a ’40 Act investment company. Other hedge fund clients include Harvest Capital Strategies and Stilwell Value.

Wilmington’s Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A. handles key Delaware law matters on issues regarding conflicts committees and other technical company law matters. Catherine Dearlove, Mark Gentile and Stephen Bigler advise Fortune 500 companies on issues regarding D&O insurance, while Srinivas Raju has expertise on advising conflict committees in the energy sector - he advised Sunoco Logistics Partners’ conflicts committee on the company’s acquisition of Energy Transfer Partners. Michael Allen is also a key contact, and Gregory Varallo heads the practice.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s Joseph Hall, a former managing executive for policy in the SEC, advises corporates from various sectors on public company law, including disclosures, leadership changes and shareholder activism matters.

Goodwin handles shareholder activism matters for existing management. Joseph Johnson in Boston is a key contact - he advised Cognizant Technology Solutions on a co-operation agreement with Elliot Management. Anthony McCusker in Menlo Park handles third-party tender offer defense campaigns.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is ‘excellent in the field - not only do clients get sound advice, the team is able to provide a regulator’s perspective as well as that of what others in the market are doing’. The firm handles a number of special committee representations - Thomas Cerabino led a team advising the special committee of National Interstate Corporation’s board on a merger with another insurer. In the shareholder activism space, the firm frequently acts for hedge funds - Russell Leaf, Michael Brandt and Michael Schwartz advised Twin Haven Capital Partners on a successful campaign to secure three new board seats on Hawaiian Telcom Holdco; Tariq Mundiya and Steven Gartner, who handle work for Third Point Management, and Maurice Lefkort are also key contacts for shareholder engagement work. The named lawyers are located in New York.

WilmerHale is ‘a great firm - the level of knowledge and experience is first rate and the team is very responsive and easy to work with’. According to one client, the team ‘exceeds the service level of any other firm for securities compliance and corporate governance’. Meredith Cross, ‘having served as Director of the Division of Corporate Finance, has significant experience from the SEC and private practice’; she and Lillian Brown are names to note in the Washington DC office, with Knute Salhus and Jonathan Wolfman sharing leadership of the practice from New York and Boston respectively. Clients include Hasbro, State Street, Activision Blizzard and Red Hat.

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