Dewey to consider bankruptcy filing: source

Fri May 18, 2012 11:11pm EDT
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By Nick Brown and Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ailing law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf is considering a bankruptcy filing as new debtholders take a more aggressive track, shifting away from earlier attempts at an out-of-court liquidation, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The majority of Dewey's partners have quit as a result of concerns about compensation, and $225 million in bank loans and bond debt.

Buyers of distressed debt who have acquired Dewey's debt at a discount on the secondary market are more open to seeing the firm wound down in bankruptcy court rather than out of it, said the person, who requested anonymity because the information was not public.

With the emergence of new creditors, Dewey on Tuesday replaced restructuring adviser Development Specialists Inc. (DSI) with competitor Zolfo Cooper. Joff Mitchell, a senior managing director at Zolfo, is now Dewey's chief restructuring officer, two people familiar with the situation said.

Bill Brandt, chief executive of DSI, confirmed that his firm's involvement in the matter was coming to an end.

"Our firm is transitioning out," Brandt said. "We've been replaced by Zolfo at the insistence of the debt holders. It now becomes a creditor-driven case."

A bankruptcy filing is not certain, and the timing of any potential filing remains unclear. The firm has been consulting with restructuring lawyers since April at the latest, and has retained bankruptcy attorney Albert Togut of law firm Togut Segal & Segal.

Neither Stephen Horvath III, Dewey's executive partner, nor Janis Meyer, its general counsel, responded to requests for comment. Mitchell and a spokesperson for Zolfo also did not respond to requests for comment.   Continued...

A man moves boxes out of the offices of Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York May 11, 2012. Once one of the largest law firms in the United States, Dewey & LeBoeuf has suffered a wave of partner defections in recent months amid a debt crisis and concerns over partner compensation. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz