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A. Rick Atwood and Randall J. Baron Named Attorneys of the Year

March 2, 2012

California Lawyer magazine recently named A. Rick Atwood and Randall J. Baron as 2012 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year. The “CLAY” award recognizes lawyers who made the greatest impact in their practice area in the past year. In honoring the two Robbins Geller partners, the monthly legal magazine wrote: “BARON and ATWOOD secured an $89 million settlement for shareholders of Del Monte Corporation in one of the largest shareholder lawsuit settlements in recent years.” On behalf of the lead plaintiff, NECA-IBEW Pension Fund (The Decatur Plan), the attorneys challenged the buyout of the food company, “charging that Del Monte adviser Barclays Capital was also [without the knowledge of Del Monte’s board] financing the buyers — a practice known as ‘staple financing,’ where the seller’s bank steers the acquisition by lending money to a favored buyer to obtain buy-side financing fees.”  As part of the settlement, Barclays contributed $24 million (more than its buy-side fees) to the settlement, while Del Monte paid shareholders $65 million (including $21 million that Del Monte would have paid to Barclays for its sell-side role in the deal).

The Wall Street Journal noted that the settlement is one of the largest in a case “challenging a merger-and-acquisition [‘M&A’] transaction.” Observing that plaintiffs’ counsel “have an established track record of generating meaningful results in this Court,” the Delaware Court of Chancery held that “it was only through the effective use of discovery that the plaintiffs were able to ‘disturb[] the patina of normalcy surrounding the transaction.”  The court elaborated: “Lead Counsel engaged in hard-nosed discovery to penetrate and expose problems with practices that Wall Street considered ‘typical.’" As one Wall Street banker confessed in The Wall Street Journal, “Everybody does it, but Barclays is the one that got caught with their hand in the cookie jar . . . .  Now everybody has to rethink how we conduct ourselves in financing situations." Indeed, Bloomberg News reported that since the financing practices in the Del Monte case were brought to light, “[a]t least nine major investment banks, including Barclays, have reviewed their lending practices,” and that according to Bloomberg’s data, staple financing of public company buyouts over $1 billion has ceased.

This is the second time in the last three years that Robbins Geller attorneys have wonCalifornia Lawyer’s honor in the securities practice area. Michael J. Dowd was named the 2010 CLAY award winner. Dowd led the Robbins Geller team that obtained a jury verdict in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of shareholders in the Household International case. The verdict is believed to be the largest jury verdict ever returned in a securities class action.

Specializing in M&A litigation, Baron has recovered billions of dollars for shareholders, including overseeing nine of the largest M&A settlements in history. He was named “Litigator of the Week” by American Lawyer for the Del Monte recovery. Baron also negotiated a record $200 million common fund recovery for former Kinder Morgan shareholders in 2010.

Atwood has successfully represented shareholders in securities class actions, M&A class actions, and shareholder derivative suits in federal and state courts in jurisdictions across the country. Through his litigation efforts at the trial and appellate levels, he has helped recover billions of dollars for shareholders, including landmark recoveries in the Del Monte and Kinder Morgan cases.

“I’m proud of my partners,” said the Firm’s founding partner Darren J. Robbins. “The skills and tenacity of our lawyers is why more institutional investors turn to us than any other plaintiffs’ firm in the world.”

Baron and Atwood’s CLAY awards come on the heels of Cornerstone Research’s 2011 Year in Review, which found that Robbins Geller was ranked first in securities class action recoveries.  For each year studied in the report – 2009 and 2010 – Cornerstone concluded that “Robbins Geller . . . was named lead or co-lead counsel more often than any other firm each year,” and shows that the Firm is the clear leader in Cornerstone Research’s assessment of lead counsel appointments based on both the Maximum Dollar Loss and the Disclosure Dollar Loss of recoveries.

The California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Awards are presented annually and honor attorneys “whose legal work made a significant impact in 2011.” The awards classify “25 accomplishments in 19 areas of legal practice, ranging from criminal law and intellectual property to personal injury, and appellate work at the California Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.” This year California Lawyer has named 55 attorneys around the state to receive the 16th annual CLAY Awards.

In re Del Monte Foods Co. S'holders Litig., No. 6027-VCL (Del. Ch.); Jaffe v. Household Int'l, Inc., No. 02-C-5893 (N.D. Ill.); In re Kinder Morgan, Inc. S’holder Litig., No. 06-C-801 (Kan. Dist. Ct., Shawnee Cnty.).

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