The Legal 500

Steptoe & Johnson LLP

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United States

Top-tier recommendations


United States: Finance

Within Corporate restructuring (including bankruptcy), tier 6

At Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington DC-based group head Filiberto Agusti recently led the firm’s advice to the Allied Pilots Association as a member of the unsecured creditors committee in the American Airlines reorganization. The three-partner team also includes ‘top-notch partner’ Michael McNamara, who is based in Los Angeles. Other representative clients include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Public Service Enterprise Group.

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Within Not-for-profit (nonprofit and tax exempt organizations), Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s clients include scientific research organization Battelle, United Way Worldwide, and The National Park Foundation. The firm advised the latter on a number of corporate sponsorship agreements made in preparation for the centennial of The National Park Service in 2016; the mandate involved lawyers from Washington DC, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and was led by Catherine Wilkinson. The firm’s nonprofit practice is co-chaired by Wilkinson and fellow Washington DC lawyer Suzanne McDowell, who advises the Wounded Warrior Project on corporate governance and executive compensation matters, and is regarded as ‘the real McCoy’.

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United States: Government

Within Government relations, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP acts as primary government affairs consultant for the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), and it also acts for a number of insurance agencies. The team has recently acted on privacy regulation and enforcement issues, online gambling regulation, credit card-rating issues and e-cigarette regulation. The Washington DC-based team represented the US Travel Insurance Association in its efforts to shape the reform of travel insurance sale regulation, successfully advocating for the adoption of model language. It is led by Scott Sinder and was extended by the addition of Darryl Nirenberg, who joined from legacy Patton Boggs in February 2014.

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United States: Industry focus

Within Energy: litigation, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Considered among the ‘market leaders’, Steptoe & Johnson LLP has ‘great lawyers and is responsive and highly respected’. In 2014 the firm represented Colonial Pipeline Company in several matters, including a complaint filed by United Airlines and Southwest Airlines alleging overcharges in the pipeline’s present and past rates, seeking to overturn its existing market-based rate authority and challenging certain operational practices. Washington DC partners Doug Green and Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov led the team retained by Entergy Corporation to defend it in litigation brought in the federal district court in Louisiana by Occidental Chemical Corporation, which is suing the client’s operating utility company subsidiary Entergy Louisiana and Louisiana Public Service Commission for developing a method with MISO for treating qualifying facilities in the market place that violates the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), as well as breach of contract, duty and fair dealing. David Raskin heads the team from Washington DC, where key partner Lon Bouknight recently returned following a five-year stint as general counsel at Edison International. Steve Brose, Steve Reed and Rick Roberts are also recommended.

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Within Energy: regulatory, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP has a substantial roster of clients which call upon its broad expertise in both pipeline and electric regulatory matters. Energy head David Raskin and Doug Green led a team that was retained by Duke Energy to conduct an investigation into an anonymous letter alleging misrepresentations made to the FERC in the competitive analysis submitted by merging parties Duke Energy and Florida Progress. Green also leads advice to Entergy Corporation in the DOJ’s antitrust monopolization investigation of the client’s electric power operations within its transmission footprint in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Steve Brose and Daniel Poynor represented Enterprise Products-owned pipelines in several matters, including defending Mid-America Pipeline against a challenge by Chevron Products company to the capacity allocation rules in a proposed tariff. Steve Reed, who is praised for his ‘excellent knowledge of the law, excellent advocacy and strategic thinking’, recently handled a number of FERC regulatory matters alongside Biz Scott for Enbridge, including obtaining a declaratory order approving the rate and tariff terms for the $2.65bn Flanagan South pipeline. All partners mentioned are based in Washington DC.

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Within Energy: transactions, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP has a broad electrical power practice that focuses on transactions involving power sales, transmission, asset restructuring and mergers. The firm is also known for its significant pipeline practice and ability to construct a multi-disciplinary team to cover a whole range of issues for clients. Caroline Gaudet led a team from Washington DC advising key client Sunoco Logistics on an open season to secure shipper volume commitments to support an ethane pipeline, batched propane and butane pipeline that will provide in excess of 200,000 barrels per day of new capacity. David Raskin heads the team from the capital.

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Within Insurance: advice to insurers, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLPcommands topics quickly, works well with clients, and the attorneys are excellent strategists’ with a ‘top-notch service’. The firm’s wide-ranging coverage of disputes includes finance, asbestos, pharmaceutical and environmental claims with recent examples including the continued representation of Hudson in a dispute with New Jersey Transit regarding a claim for Superstorm Sandy losses. ‘Smart, analytical and detail-oriented’ Harry Lee leads the practice from Washington DC and continues to serve as counsel for USF&G in a fraud action filed by more than 10,000 asbestos claimants that is currently on appeal. Other asbestos-related matters included representing Zurich in a high-value multi-party asbestos litigation for tens of thousands of claims seeking coverage, led by Washington DC-based Antonia Ianniello. The firm also continues to represent Hartford and New England Reinsurance Corporation with James Rocap of Washington DC and the ‘very dedicated and focused’ Jon Neumann of Phoenix leading the team working on the high-profile concussion-related mass torts filed by former NFL players. Clients recommend Roger Warin who ‘always keeps his head and understands the issues’ as well as ‘exceptional attorney’ John Jacobus, both based in Washington DC.

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United States: Intellectual property

Within Patent litigation: full coverage, tier 6

John Caracappa’s team at Steptoe & Johnson LLP is lead counsel for Google in two cases against Skyhook involving geographic location technology, and is also representing Huawei in a seven-patent case brought by Innovative Display Technologies. On the life sciences side, the firm represents Sandoz in a number of cases concerning various pharmaceutical products; Chicago-based Thomas Filarski obtained a reversal of an infringement verdict in the Federal Circuit, thus allowing Sandoz to market a generic version of Allergan’s Latisse drug. Other key clients include Honda, Amazon and Continental Automotive Systems. All named attorneys are based in Washington DC, except where otherwise stated.

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Within Patent litigation: International Trade Commission, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP saw the departure of former team leader Jamie Beaber to Mayer Brown, with the remaining Washington DC-based group now headed by John Caracappa and Harold Fox. It also includes longstanding ITC practitioner Charles Schill. The group acted for LG in the high-profile investigation initiated by Black Hills Media, and terminated a patent suit seeking exclusion and cease-and-desist orders on behalf of Moët Hennessy, allowing the continued use of laminated packaging for its Dom Pérignon and Moët Chandon products. Other key clients include MOFCOM, Clorox and Magna Electronics.

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Within Patent prosecution: utility and design patents , tier 5

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is ‘highly competent in patent procurement’ and the group has experience in a number of industries, including electronics, biotechnology, material science and business methods. A recent highlight saw Los Angeles-based Robert Kovelman successfully obtain multiple patents worldwide for Solomon Brothers Technology relating to new surgical devices. Harold Fox heads the team from the Washington DC office, and is recommended for strategic patent advice and post-grant proceedings. Brooke Quist is also recommended.

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Within Trademarks: litigation, tier 5

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s practice is particularly noted in the luxury goods sector, but also handles contentious trademark matters for clients from a variety of other industries. Washington DC-based practice chairs Michael Allan and William Pecau have been representing LVMH in a suit against Sunny Merchandise Corporation regarding counterfeit and infringing Louis Vuitton trademarks in connection with sunglasses and eyewear products; they are acting for the same client against La Maison Du Vigneron regarding the infringement of Moët Hennessy’s Ice Imperial trademark and trade dress for champagne. In addition, the firm successfully acted for Clorox in a dispute with competitor Industrias Alen regarding the infringement of Clorox’s Pine-Sol mark.

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Within Trademarks: non-contentious: full coverage, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is frequently involved in opposition proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, and covers the full range of trademark and trade dress protection services. The group is particularly notable for defense against online fraud, working parallel with its e-commerce, electronic security and encryption practice to assist clients with cybersquatting and domain name disputes. John Caracappa and Harold Fox co-head the group in Washington DC, which also includes acquisition, protection and enforcement lawyer Rachel Hofstatter. The group’s client list includes The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Regions Bank and Black & Decker.

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United States: Labor and employment

Within Employee benefits and executive compensation, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP has a comprehensive offering that covers all aspects of employee benefits including Title I, Title II, Title IV and public plans, as well as complex tax, transactional and legislative matters. Melanie Nussdorf leads the fiduciary practice for financial institutions while Paul Ondrasik leads on ERISA litigation. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation practice is headed by Edward Mackiewicz, a former general counsel of the agency, who is representing and providing legal advice to the Masters, Mates & Pilots Benefit Plans’ board of trustees and administrator. Nussdorf is advising a large financial institution on its pension plan governance project and defined contribution plan investment platform. Eric Serron represents clients before the DOL in matters involving ERISA compliance and is advising on obligations under Title I of ERISA. Joni Andrioff joined the Chicago office from Littler Mendelson, P.C. and Anne Moran retired. All lawyers mentioned are based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

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Within ERISA litigation , Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a first tier firm,

A clear market leader’, Steptoe & Johnson LLP regularly handles high-stakes cases for an impressive array of clients including major companies, insurers, investment advisers, trustees and various service providers. Paul Ondrasik (who is widely recognised for his ‘deep expertise in ERISA litigation’), Morgan Hodgson and of counsel Ryan Jenny continue to defend BP in a putative class action alleging breach of fiduciary duties relating to the Deepwater Horizon explosion; following a dismissal of the claims, the case was appealed and then remanded in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2014 Dudenhoeffer case. The firm has continued to build on its impressive track record of defeating nationwide class actions; Ondrasik, Edward Mackiewicz and Gwen Renigar recently secured the dismissal of an action brought against the trustees of the Central Pension Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers alleging breach of fiduciary duty. In addition, the firm successfully defended Morgan Stanley against a putative class action alleging the client had violated ERISA by receiving pay-to-play fees. Ondrasik, Melanie Nussdorf, Eric Serron, and New York-based Michael Miller and counsel Michael Rips led on the matter. All partners are based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

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Within Immigration, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP has a well-balanced practice, acting for numerous corporate clients with an outstanding practice representing individuals in citizenship renunciation applications, asylum cases and foreign adoptions. It successfully filed a family-based green card petition for a Nigerian national who was the victim of domestic abuse. Its work for corporate clients includes advising Honda R&D Americas and Honda Performance Development on immigrant and non-immigrant applications for employees and family members. It is also immigration counsel for Holcim Technology, which includes handing visa applications and assisting with I-9 records. Lynda Zengerle leads the Washington DC-based team.

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United States: Litigation

Within Commercial litigation, tier 4

Karl Tilleman in Phoenix leads Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s practice, which is ‘one of the strongest in the market’ and has ‘extensive experience in trying cases with difficult fact patterns’. Washington DC-based Steven Davidson and Alfred Mamlet won a breach of contract suit at jury trial for Artel LLC concerning the supply of services to the State Department. Davidson represents ExxonMobil in its breach of contract claims against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Seong Kim in Los Angeles is ‘renowned for his skill and effectiveness’.

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Within International trade, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a first tier firm,

A ‘strong team that gets good results’, Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s globally renowned trade practice packs a punch in the full span of export controls, economic sanctions, FCPA and CFIUS matters. However, it is most often held up as ‘top in its specialized field of defending clients in trade disputes’. In a high-profile example of its work in this area, the firm is representing the Government of Argentina in a WTO dispute brought by the EU, US and Japan regarding its import regime; Mark Moran, who ‘commands respect from industry and government’, is leading the firm’s advice on this matter alongside Matthew Yeo and Brazilian qualified litigator Pablo Bentes. In addition to its ever-broadening Latin America practice, the Washington DC-based team continues to deepen its expertise in China-related matters, leveraging a solid on-the-ground presence in Beijing, and it has also recently undertaken work relating to Korea and India. The international trade group also benefits from the firm’s prominent Brussels office, which is often called upon to play a role in multi-jurisdictional cases involving EU law. Other key names in this ‘responsive, business-focused and prudent’ group include Susan Esserman, who chairs the international department, ‘trade remedies stalwart’ Richard Cunningham, FCPA lead Lucinda Low, CFIUS specialist Stewart Baker and Edward Krauland, who is recommended for export controls and economic sanctions matters.

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Within Leading trial lawyers Leading trial lawyers

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Within Product liability and mass tort defense: toxic tort, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a third tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP represents clients in major litigation arising both inside and outside of the US. Los Angeles-based practice head Lawrence Riff and Washington DC-based Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov are representing Shell in a property damage and medical monitoring putative class action arising from groundwater contamination. The firm also works closely with Monsanto, with Riff and fellow Los Angeles-based lawyer Daniel Blakey serving as co-lead counsel in claims brought by Argentine farmers alleging its agricultural product causes birth defects in children.

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Within White-collar criminal defense , tier 4

Lauded for its ‘unique code of good conduct and ethics’, Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s team has been busy on a variety of matters including representing BP’s former head of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico in a criminal case arising out of Deepwater Horizon, and leading an internal investigation into claims that Pilot Flying J sales employees defrauded trucking company customers. One particular specialism is public corruption cases and the team recently defended John Rowland in relation to a number of campaign finance violations. The ‘outstanding’ Brian Heberlig leads a team that includes FCPA specialist Lucinda Low, New York-based Michelle Levin and Reid Weingarten, who is singled out as being ‘one of the nation’s finest white-collar trial lawyers’. Evan Barr left the firm in January 2015 to join Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. Named partners are based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

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United States: Media, technology and telecoms

Within Cyber crime, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s cybersecurity team is led by Pantelis Michalopoulos from the Washington DC office, supported by Jason Weinstein, Stephen Heifetz, Stewart Baker and Michael Vatis. The firm is best known for regulatory work and litigation, and while it advises clients across a broad range of industry sectors, it has specialist strength in the telecoms space. In a recent work example, it acted for Neustar in identifying whether privacy and security issues were to the clients advantage in the decision by the FCC to appoint either the client or Ericsson to administer the US number portability database, a role which the client previously undertook. Other work includes filing an amicus brief on behalf of Verizon in support of a search warrant matter which requires Microsoft to turn over emails to the US government from a server in Ireland. All individuals mentioned are in Washington DC except for Vatis who is based in New York.

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Within Telecoms and broadcast: regulatory, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a second tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP impresses with its ‘excellent knowledge base and expertise coupled with business acumen and value for money’. The ‘outstanding’ practice is led by Pantelis Michalopoulos. While it has been historically focused on traditional telecoms and media, the team noted a growing trend towards internet law; one of the most prominent such matters was assisting The Internet Association, which includes the likes of Amazon, eBay, AOL, Google, and Facebook, with preparing comments to the FCC on mobile payment reference models and net neutrality. Markham Erickson, ‘a substantive legal expert with great connections and understanding of the regulatory process, as well as a command of the political, policy and public relations aspects of regulatory work’, is representing Netflix before the FCC in opposing the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable; he is also representing the client before the FCC in both advocating for open internet rules as well as in its internal investigation of industry interconnection practices. Michalopoulos and Stephanie Roy are handling a number of cases for longstanding client DISH Network, for example representing it before the FCC in connection with the largest transactions presented over the past year, including AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-Time Warner Cable; the pair are also assisting the client in net neutrality proceedings. Another highlight saw the team represent Bloomberg before the FCC and the Second Circuit, obtaining a settlement in a cable carriage dispute between the client and Comcast. Stewart Baker, a former Assistant Secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, and New York-based Michael Vatis, are also recommended.

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Within Telecoms and broadcast: transactional, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a third tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s ‘overall level of service is outstanding on every level: excellent knowledge base, expertise coupled with business acumen and outstanding value for money’. The team is led by Pantelis Michalopoulos, who recently acted as primary outside regulatory counsel to DISH Network in a number of matters; Michalopoulos, along with Stephanie Roy, is also assisting the same client with its entry into terrestrial wireless services, including the reorganization of DISH Wireless. While the department has noteworthy strength in traditional telecoms and media matters, the team is also growing its presence in internet law and new technology, attracting clients such as Netflix and The Internet Association. Stewart Baker, the ‘outstanding’ Markham Erickson, and newly promoted partner Chris Bjornson are also recommended.

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United States: Tax

Within Domestic tax, tier 4

Steptoe & Johnson LLP represents clients in a broad range of sectors, including food, healthcare, energy, construction and insurance, as well as a large number of high-net-worth individuals. The firm is rated highly for ‘level of service, response times, business acumen, and industry knowledge’. The co-heads of the practice are Philip West, who is also chairman of the firm, and Robert Rizzi, both of whom are based in Washington DC. Other key members of the team include Pat Derdenger and Dawn Gabel in Phoenix and Don Wellington in Los Angeles. Wellington’s clients include the California State Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). The firm has particular expertise in handling SALT matters, especially in Phoenix where appeals to local authorities account for a high proportion of the firm’s instructions. Trusts and estates lawyer Beth Tractenburg joined the firm’s New York office from Katten Muchin Rosenman.

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Within International tax, tier 5

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is praised for its ‘excellent and prompt service’ and the ‘high-level advice provided by partners and associates alike’; in particular, practice head Philip West has ‘superb technical expertise’. Amanda Varma and Robert Rizzi are also recommended; all are based in Washington DC. A list of clients includes Walt Disney and Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank.

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Within Tax controversy, Steptoe & Johnson LLP is a third tier firm,

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s controversy team, which is based in Washington DC, is praised for ‘the quality of its advice and value-for-money service’. The group includes litigators with experience serving as DOJ trial and appellate lawyers, Treasury and Congressional officials. It deals with state, federal and international matters in all phases of tax planning and controversy both in the US and abroad. Philip West leads the practice and the ‘experienced’ Mark Silverman, the ‘skillful’ Walker Johnson, Arthur Bailey and Amanda Varma are also recommended.

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United States

Offices in Phoenix, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto

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