Willkie enters new bankruptcy niche with recent MoFo hires
Willkie Farr & Gallagher takes a big step in the restructuring market by adding three Morrison & Foerster partners who represent creditors committees in high profile cases.
Morrison Forester’s partners Brett Miller, Dennis Jenkins and Todd Goren have joined Willkie’s New York business restructuring and reorganization practice as partners, Willkie confirmed on Monday, after Law.com reported the movements last week.
Although Willkie has been bankrupt for decades, he has regularly represented ad hoc groups of creditors, said cabinet chairman Matthew Feldman, and not the official work of the creditors committee which often comes with high fees.
“We never had the skills, expertise or reputation to represent official committees. This is a missing piece of our creditor-side practice and one that we have long aspired to be able to develop, ”Feldman said in an interview. “It’s a way to expand and generate more work collectively. “
The three partners, who might be joined by some partners later, have retained leading roles in major cases, including representing the official committees of unsecured creditors in the Avianca Holdings and Grupo Aeromexico cases before the Tribunal des Crédits. New York bankruptcies.
In these two cases alone, recent court orders granting quarterly fee claims show Morrison & Foerster collectively had to be paid more than $ 3 million for their work. Monthly fee statements in April for these two cases totaled more than $ 1 million, according to court records.
These cases, and most of the business of the partner group’s clients, are transferred with them to Willkie, Miller said in an interview, but adding that some business would remain with Morrison & Foerster.
Miller, most recently managing partner in the New York office at Morrison & Foerster and co-chair of the firm’s troubled real estate group, said he was drawn to Willkie for a number of reasons, including his great corporate practice on the East Coast and Willkie’s Houston office, where his former practice is not present.
“One of the things Willkie has that Morrison & Foerster doesn’t have is a thriving Houston office” with bankrupt lawyers and corporate lawyers who work in oil and gas, Miller said. , adding that a Houston office would be helpful in some of his business with his clients.
This is because some creditor clients end up owning businesses at the end of the bankruptcy process, sitting on their boards of directors and having their own corporate work to donate, including M&A deals. Miller said he plans to talk to some clients about moving the company’s work to Willkie’s office in Houston.
While Feldman and Miller both acknowledged that there had been fewer Chapter 11 filings since last year, they said they remained busy with cases that have already been filed. “If you get a part in a big deal,” Miller said, “our group will be busy and it will look like it’s been busy for a long time.”
Feldman, who is also co-chair of Willkie’s corporate reorganization and restructuring department, said he expects even more activity later this year and next due to a potential rate hike. of interest. “If the interest rate environment changes even a little bit, and I think that’s likely to happen,” Feldman said, “I expect business to pick up significantly.”
The Willkie bankruptcy firm will have around 28 attorneys in the United States with the group’s move.
Bankruptcy partners are the latest side additions for Willkie, who last week hired four Mayer Brown insurance attorneys in San Francisco and New York.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Morrison & Foerster said the company wished the bankrupt partners good luck. The company said its own restructuring and insolvency group, under the leadership of Lorenzo Marinuzzi and Jennifer Marines, “will continue to provide our clients with essential advice on their most important and complex matters.”
The firm added that Jamie Levitt, who is co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s commercial litigation and litigation group, has been appointed managing partner in its New York office.
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