Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is one of the few firms of its ilk to span the globe with its disputes prowess while still being a champion of cases that set precedents through its practitioners in New York and DC. “Cleary benefits from having a really broad and international book of business,” states a peer. “This drives some great work their way and they have superb people there to look after it.” The firm excels in antitrust, white-collar and investigations work, securities, bankruptcy, commercial and even some intellectual property, in addition to being known as one of the dominant forces in the international arbitration arena.
Cleary’s antitrust capacity, already considered one of the country’s strongest, got a further boost in March of 2020 when it recruited Bruce Hoffman, a former leader of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, to its DC group. A peer offers in summation, “That was a fabulous hire,” a consensus shared by many in the antitrust sphere. Hoffman is already making his presence felt in cases; he and fellow DC partner David Gelfand are representing Molson Coors in the defense of a claim by a US brewer alleging an antitrust violation affected exports to Ontario, Canada. The case is on remand from the Seventh Circuit, which dismissed the majority of plaintiff’s claims. Another DC partner, George Cary, is widely considered the firm’s antitrust figurehead and is also a near-unanimous reference among fellow practitioners in the field. One peer hyperbolically quips, “George Cary is antitrust!” Another elaborates, “George has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of antitrust law, he also just has instant credibility. He actually manages to teach the judiciary about antitrust law, and that would only happen if you’ve got the kind of clout with them that George has.” Cary and a fellow antitrust star, Leah Brannon, represent Keurig in massive multiparty monopolization litigation in the Southern District of New York. Almost two years into discovery, the litigation involves five complaints brought against Keurig by two individual competitors, two purported classes (direct and indirect purchasers), and an individual purchaser. Among other allegations, these cases allege that Keurig has unlawfully monopolized a market for Keurig-compatible single-serve coffee through a wide range of actions, from Keurig’s design and advertising of its 2.0 coffee brewer and related coffee to its contracts with suppliers, distributors, and other partners. A team consisting of Cary and yet another antitrust star, Jeremy Calsyn, along with Gelfand and Mark Nelson, secured federal merger clearance and won an unprecedented multi-state lawsuit as lead antitrust counsel to T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom in connection with T-Mobile’s historic merger with Sprint Corporation. The lawsuit was brought by 17 Attorney Generals and culminated in a two-week trial in December 2019 and January 2020. Brannon and Calsyn, both based in DC, are quickly risen stars who represent the younger generation of the firm.
Another area in which Cleary is routinely praised is the white-collar and enforcement area. “They have a good nucleus of a practice in DoJ and SEC and in DC and NY,” confirms a peer. Another elaborates, “Cleary is great because they have about six people I can count on who are solid. When I have a huge case that I need to refer, I need the breadth and the depth, not just one star player who may or may not be too overwhelmed to be fully engaged. The Cleary team is smart, knowledgeable and experienced, and there are a bunch of them: David Brodsky, Joon Kim, Breon Peace, Lev Dassin, Victor Hou – these people are all a solid team.” Hou represents embattled Brazilian engineering and construction firm Odebrecht and related entities in two private securities actions in the Southern District of New York. At the heart of the matters is the defendants’ involvement in the biggest bribery scandal in history (the investigation of which resulted in the well-publicized “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) action), which resulted in a guilty plea and $2.6 billion settlement with the US DoJ as well as settlements with other foreign governments. “Victor is not just a white-collar guy, though,” insists a peer, speaking to Hou’s broad-based practice. “He kind of does it all, commercial and securities work, and he’s great with all of it. Plus he’s got relative youth and energy going for him, which you don’t often see with someone with his level of experience.”
The firm’s international muscle is frequently on display in cases managed by Jeffrey Rosenthal and Howard Zelbo, two long-established figures in the global arbitration arena, as well as Ari MacKinnon, a future star who is increasingly moving to the fore in cases of his own. Another future star, Lisa Vicens, makes her debut in this edition on the strength of vibrant peer review. “Lisa has developed a fabulous South American practice,” confirms one competitor. “She is a homegrown talent, an unusual person in that respect.” The international team at Cleary frequently attends to cases touching on securities enforcement, white-collar crime and bankruptcy issues. Lisa Schweitzer is a practitioner engaged in bankruptcy specifically. Schweitzer represents bedding products company Tempur Sealy International in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases of one of its regional retailers, preserving the client’s litigation claims and other rights through the bankruptcy. In a recent development, Schweitzer is leading a team representing LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and the US in the voluntary reorganization and restructuring of their debt under Chapter 11 protection in the US. Under the Chapter 11 financial reorganization process, LATAM and its affiliates will have the opportunity to resize their operations to the new demand environment, given the effects of COVID-19, and reorganize their balance sheets. The group will continue passenger and cargo operations as conditions permit throughout the process. This cross-border procedure, which highlights unprecedented challenges faced by the industry in the face of the global pandemic, also involves Luke Barefoot, a rising star in the bankruptcy arena, as well as securities-focused star, Roger Cooper.