Litigators Gain Ground

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We've said before that finance-related litigation work would take off for law firms this year, helping offset the contraction of advisory business from securitization deals, leveraged buyouts and real estate. Tuesday brings a trio of developments on that front, courtesy of American Lawyer's AmLaw Litigation Daily.

In the latest high-profile suit over a busted merger, Rohm & Haas sued Dow Chemical seeking to force completion of their $15.3 billion agreement. That deal was slated to close Tuesday, but Dow's confirmed it wouldn't go forward.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is representing Rohm & Haas. Interestingly, the same law firm handled the opposite side of a similar case, when it represented Hexion Specialty Chemicals in an unsuccessful attempt to get out of a deal with Huntsman. Marc Wolinsky, who was lead trial counsel for Hexion, is listed as counsel to Rohm. Shearman & Sterling represented Dow in the merger negotiations, although it's not clear if it will be defending the company in the Delaware litigation, Litigation Daily says.

In securities-related litigation, Merrill Lynch disclosed last week it would pay $550 million to settle two separate shareholder suits over sub-prime mortgage investments. One settlement, for $75 million, goes toward compensating Merrill employees for losses on company stock held in their retirement plans. The remaining $475 million, to be paid to investors led by the Ohio State Teachers' Retirement System, reportedly ranks among the 20 biggest securities class action settlements ever.

Those settlements could set a pattern for more than 140 pending suits stemming from the sub-prime and credit crises, Litigation Daily observes. It cites b>Kevin LaCroix of D&O Diary.

Meanwhile, securities class action specialist Milberg LLP, rejuvenated by business from the Madoff scandal, got a further boost in the form of a $120 million attorneys' fee award for itself and other plaintiffs' firms that won a $750 million class settlement last year from Xerox, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune. Milberg and its allies (Berman DeValerio and Johnson & Perkinson were co-lead counsel) reportedly logged 291,000 billable hours, reviewed 4 million pages of documents, and laid out at least $5 million to fund the case. As usual, the division of fees among plaintiffs' counsel won't be disclosed.