Lehman Brothers Files for Bankruptcy; Firm Chairman Later Appointed Examiner to Investigate
On this day in 2008, the fourth largest investment bank in the country filed for bankruptcy protection. The collapse of 158-year-old Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, was one event that precipitated the late-2000s global financial crisis. At the time, it was the largest failure of an investment bank in 18 years. “Throughout the day, employees carrying tote bags, suitcases and boxes packed with contents of desks and offices streamed out of Lehman's Times Square-area headquarters,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. In January 2009, the court appointed firm Chairman Tony Valukas as examiner, charged with investigating why Lehman had failed. Later that year, Chicago Lawyer magazine named Tony “Person of the Year,” in part because of his work on Lehman. In 2010, Tony presented his 2,200-page report, coined the “Valukas Report” and applauded for its clarity and usefulness in determining what brought about Lehman’s demise.
Firm Hosts its First Diversity Dinner
Diversity Dinner guest speaker Ruby Bridges, center, meets the firm's 2013 scholars; from left: Kara Ingelhart, Bide Akande, Kara Trowell and Mikael Rojas.
On this day in 2001, federal District Court Judge George Leighton, the first African-American judge to sit on the Illinois Appellate Court, keynoted the firm’s first Diversity Dinner. Attended by summer associates and attorneys from all offices, the annual dinner celebrates diversity and honors the firm’s diversity scholars. Other luminaries who have addressed the event through the years have included Michele Coleman Mayes, one of America’s top black lawyers and most influential general counsel; Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s national marriage director; civil rights icon Ruby Bridges; U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, the first Hispanic federal judge in Illinois and a firm alumnus; and, in 2003, a little-known Illinois state senator, civil rights lawyer and community organizer named Barack Obama. The 2014 speaker was Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of EBONY and JET magazines. A summer associate noted that the hallmark event “exemplifies what makes Jenner & Block such a special firm.”
Firm Wins $101 Jury Verdict for Ventas
On this day in 2009, a jury awarded $101 million to client Ventas, a leading healthcare real estate investment trust. Following a three-week trial in Kentucky, the verdict was awarded as compensatory damages against competitor HCP for tortious interference with business expectation arising out of Ventas’ acquisition of the Sunrise Senior Living REIT in 2007. HCP had topped Ventas' initial bid for Sunrise, which prompted Ventas to increase its offer by about $101 million. Ventas ultimately acquired Sunrise for about $2 billion and later sued HCP, arguing that it had interfered with Ventas' purchase agreement by making misleading public statements relating to the bid. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit not only affirmed the verdict but also remanded the case to the trial court to allow Ventas to pursue punitive damages. “The record is replete with evidence of intentional misrepresentations, deceit, and/or concealment of material facts by HCP,” the opinion read. For his work on the appeal, David Bradford was named American Lawyer’s “Litigator of the Week” in May 2011. In addition to David, the team resenting Ventas included current Partners Michael L. Cebula, Terri L. Mascherin, Paul M. Smith, Daniel J. Weiss and Bradley M. Yusim and Associates Anthony B. Borich, Rachel S. Morse and Shaun M. Van Horn.
Firm Successfully Defends American Academy of Pediatrics in Case Focusing on Polio Vaccine
Don Harris successfully defended the American Academy of Pediatrics in a case that focused on the Academy’s recommended polio vaccine. At issue were two types of vaccines: the popular Salk vaccine, which was a “killed” vaccine, and the Sabin vaccine, which was a “live” vaccine and therefore had a “herd” immunity effect. Because of the Sabin vaccine’s “herd” effect, the Academy recommended its use over the Salk vaccine. But when a Michigan child contracted polio after using the Sabin vaccine, the family sued the Academy, charging that its recommendation resulted in the child getting polio. On this day in 1983, Don prevailed, despite the celebrity adverse expert testimony of Dr. Jonas Salk, the famed inventor of the vaccine that bears his name. The case showed that the Academy – and not supporters or detractors of any particular vaccine – should guide public health policy.
Operation Greylord - Undercover Probe into Corruption - Becomes Public
The undercover Operation Greylord investigation became public on this week in 1983. Tom Sullivan launched the joint investigation with the FBI after he became U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in 1977; Chuck Sklarsky was among its architects during his time as an assistant U.S. attorney. Ultimately, the operation led to the conviction of about 90 individuals, including judges, lawyers, deputy sheriffs, police officers and court clerks, on a range of charges including conspiracy and bribery. In an interview with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, Tom recalled facing the difficult decision of whether to use real or fake cases to snare corrupt members of the Cook County judiciary. Although it would have been easier to have undercover FBI agents defend real cases, ethical and liability concerns caused the team to use fake cases. “If we use real cases and [the prosecutor or judge] takes a bribe and a guy is released from a minor crime and then goes out and commits a really horrible crime, I’m going to get blamed for it. So you can’t use real cases; you have to use fake cases. We had these wonderful FBI agents, just marvelous people who came up with this whole scenario of faking the reasons for being arrested,” Tom recalled. The probe continued under Tom’s successors, Dan Webb and then Tony Valukas. The investigation was made public and prosecutions begun during Dan’s tenure; Tony pursued and concluded the operation. When Tony left office in 1989, the Chicago Tribune observed that “corrupt judges, bankers, drug dealers, police officers, lawyers, business executives, aldermen, defense contractors, state legislators, sports agents -- all have been brought to justice by Valukas and his staff during his four years as U.S. attorney in the Chicago region.” In the aftermath of Operation Greylord, Jerry Solovy was appointed to lead a special commission to recommend ways to reform the system. Known as the “Solovy Commission,” the panel proposed the merit selection of judges, among other reforms, and issued several reports addressing disclosure rules regarding the judicial selection process.
Click here to download a copy of The Special Commission on the Administration of Justice in Cook County Report.
Sen. Obama Gives Keynote Address at Diversity Dinner
Illinois Senator Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the firm’s Diversity Dinner on this day in 2003, five years before voters would give him a job promotion to president of the United States. Senator Obama told about 100 partners, associates and summer associates that “diversity is an engine toward excellence, not an impediment… We grow by learning to look at the world through different lenses.”