Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

United States (National)

Review

Dispute resolution

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has etched itself a coveted position as one of the nation’s most ubiquitous, recognized and prized legal brands. Having already firmly entrenched itself a dominant position in the New York legal market, Skadden has since expanded to penetrate the West Coast as well as markets like DC, Boston and Wilmington, Delaware. “Skadden is clearly everywhere,” sums up a peer, “and they are pretty universally recognized as best-in-class. They deserve it, though. In my experience with their lawyers as part of teams, they always just seem to be a notch above the rest.”
     In the firm’s flagship New York office, Skadden hosts a securities team that is namechecked on a near-unanimous basis by peers in the field. Indeed, in early 2020 alone, the firm lays claim to an eyebrow-raising number of headline wins in this area. Seasoned partner Jay Kasner, named as a first-call securities leader for decades, is still a prominent figure. However, it is noted that others are stepping up to take the baton. Most notably, Scott Musoff is championed on a near-unanimous basis. “Scott is kind of ‘the man’ at Skadden in this space now,” observes a peer, who goes on to call Musoff a “class act.” Another peer confides, “I cleaned Scott Musoff’s clock one time…but I was very lucky, and I knew it. He was great, fought hard, was prepared and thoughtful. I went in fully preparing to lose.” Musoff represented certain subsidiaries of BlackRock in obtaining a Third Circuit affirmance of a favorable post-trial decision dismissing all counts of an excessive fees claim. The case was brought by investors in two of BlackRock’s largest mutual funds. The plaintiffs alleged that the funds paid BlackRock excessive compensation for its services as their investment manager. Musoff and Kasner also represent CIBC, securing a series of vital wins on the client’s behalf, including fending off summary judgment and most recently defeating a sweeping attempt by the plaintiff to compel production of all of CIBC’s privileged communications regarding the contracts in question. The latter action was decided in the client’s favor in March 2020, capping off what was an already extraordinary month for the Skadden securities team. That same month, Musoff and Kasner prevailed before the Second Circuit in March 2020 on behalf of the management and directors of Republic Airways, which operates flights on behalf of several major airlines, including Delta. The regional airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016, which allowed it to negotiate new arrangements with its airline partners including. Two distressed debt funds that had invested in Republic objected. They argued that Delta’s unsecured claim was an overpayment. The Second Circuit disagreed, handing a victory to the Skadden team. Musoff was also part of a multi-office team (which also included John Carroll in the firm’s Boston office) that won dismissal of a securities fraud class action on behalf of Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company sued in the Southern District of New York by shareholders who claimed Intercept made material misrepresentations and omissions about its drug Ocaliva, a medication is used to treat a rare liver disease. In 2017, the FDA issued a safety alert warning about the drug in the wake of a number of patients having died after taking it, after which the company’s share price took a precipitous drop and plaintiff firms moved in to file suit. The case was dismissed in March 2020. Musoff was also part of team that secured yet another win for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company that, along with some of its officers were sued in the District of Massachusetts, is alleged to have made false or misleading statements about the efficacy and marketability of a new drug to treat a rare condition known as hereditary ATTR amyloidosis. The gene mutation causes a potentially harmful build-up of certain proteins in the body’s nerves and organs. The case was tossed in, you guessed it, March 2020. Susan Saltzstein is another routinely acknowledged securities star. “She is really tremendous,” insists one, who goes on to opine, “There are still not nearly enough elite women securities lawyers, but the number is growing – but even among that growing number, Susan really stands out.” Another peer observes, “Something I’m seeing more of right now is new 10b-5 securities class actions that are not your standard stock-drop cases and RMBS type work from the 2008 era. These are more cases alleging that a company failed to disclose #MeToo issues at the management or executive level, issues with individuals that would clearly have a material impact on the company’s value. When these things go public and people demand scalps to be claimed, and those scalps are of the guys who publicly run the company…there are allegations of failure to have policies in place, proper compliance, etc. Susan Saltzstein is someone I know that has had a bunch of these cases in the defense role.” Skadden’s well documented prestige in the securities area, exemplified by the staggering streak of recent wins, facilitated it handily securing the “Securities Firm of the Year” position at the 2021 Benchmark awards.

     Beyond securities, the firm is also a considered a go-to for antitrust matters. “I got to see a lot of big firms in the rate cases,” states one antitrust peer. “They were all good but the Skadden team really impressed me as being a cut above.” Kasner made news in this capacity as well when he was part of a team that secured a March 2020 (yes, again) dismissal of an antitrust class action in the Southern District of New York against Citigroup and three affiliates. The lawsuit alleged a conspiracy between several major banks to restrain trade in the US dollar-denominated market for supranational, sub-sovereign and agency bonds in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Boris Bershteyn is also noted as a “real up-and-comer in the antitrust space” by a peer, who goes on to insist, “He does a lot of litigation, he’s very active and he’s fabulous, a very smart guy.” Bershteyn partnered with Saltzstein on defending HSBC Holdings PLC and affiliated entities in a putative antitrust class action alleging a conspiracy by 10 banks to manipulate the market for debt securities issued by the Mexican government. The plaintiffs — eight US pension funds — alleged that the defendant banks rigged the auction process by which the Mexican government issued the bonds and conspired to manipulate the pricing of the bonds in the secondary market. The Skadden pair secured the dismissal.

     The firm made a considerable augmentation to its product liability bench recently when it recruited Allison Brown to its bench. Brown, a noted standout trial lawyer in the product liability space, brings a wealth of experience in talc litigation and a client relationship with Johnson & Johnson. Brown has scored numerous wins for this client in 2019 alone. Another seasoned product liability mainstay, John Beisner, acted with international arbitration specialist Julie Bédard representing Vale in connection with the collapse of Dam I of the Corrego de Feijão iron ore mine in Brazil. Bédard is especially fluent with matters concerning a Latin American element.