One of SoCal's elites, Munger, Tolles & Olson has resisted
the temptation to expand beyond the Golden State. The firm is
similarly consistent in its recruiting: depending on your outlook,
Munger Tolles attorneys are either active proponents of public
service or shrewd résumé builders (or both)-a majority of them have
clerked for U.S. federal judges, while many others have worked for
federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the
Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Attorneys offices.
Cali Firm with Cornhusker Friends
An ancient firm founded by grey-whiskered men wearing pince-nez?
Not Munger Tolles. Instead, think crew cuts and the Cuban Missile
Crisis. The firm was founded in 1962 by seven partners, including
Charles Munger and Edwin Leroy Tolles. Munger departed after three
years, but this proved to work in the firm's interests. A close
friend of investor Warren Buffett, Munger went on to become vice
chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn became a repeat
Munger Tolles' client.
Tolles passed away in 2008, leaving Ronald L. Olson as the only
name partner still in active practice at the firm. Olson, who
joined in 1968, is also connected to Berkshire Hathaway (he's a
director of the company) and served as Founding Chairman of the
Board of Trustees of Southern California Public Radio. For many
years, the Los Angeles Daily Journal (which happens to be owned by
one Charles Munger) has named Olson one of California's most
influential lawyers, acknowledging his work for clients like
Yahoo!, the J. Paul Getty Trust, Shell Oil, Michael Ovitz and
Paramount chairman Brad Grey.
Aside from its reluctance to expand geographically, Munger Tolles
is atypical in that it promotes an "ownership mentality" among its
ranks. In adherence to this culture, partners are allowed to weigh
in on the pay of their fellow partners, and all attorneys may vote
on all job candidates and review the firm's financial books. A
highly selective firm in terms of both hiring and its acceptance of
cases, Munger Tolles has historically rewarded those who make it
through the hiring gauntlet with an accelerated path to partner:
the average associate can be considered for the partnership within
five to seven years. While the firm keeps its ranks lean, it prides
itself on the diversity of talent within its doors-clients who hire
Munger Tolles may find themselves with lawyers who hold graduate
degrees in history, literature, medicine, economics or physics.
Winning on Pacific Time
Proving that the West Coast can be the best coast, Munger Tolles
made headlines in 2008 when The American Lawyer placed it
atop the magazine's "A-List." It was the first time the honor had
gone to a firm outside New York, but not the last: Munger Tolles
placed #1 on the AmLaw A-List for three consecutive years. Today
Munger Tolles operates over a half-dozen practice areas, with
growing strength in criminal investigations and defense, as well as
appellate work. Niche practices include tax and bankruptcy. The
firm counts among its clients some of California's largest
companies (think entertainment, energy and retail), national
corporations, large universities, foreign government agencies and
IN THE NEWS
Starting the Year with Trials
Munger Tolles is handling some of the nation's most high-profile
trials. In April, Munger Tolles lawyers completed a seven-week
trial in U.S. District Court in New Orleans over the April 2010 BP
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The firm represents Transocean,
which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Meanwhile, in New
York state court, lawyers were defending J.C. Penney at a
high-profile trial in an action brought against it and Martha
Stewart by Macy's. The firm concluded a long-running matter for
Aera Energy LLC (a joint venture of Exxon Mobil and Shell) when a
Bakersfield jury returned a unanimous defense victory on the issue
of punitive damages. It is also defending Philip Morris USA at
trial in a consumer class action in San Diego alleging deceptive
marketing relating to the sale and marketing of "Light"
Munger Tolles attorney Jeffrey I. Weinberger argued before the U.S.
Supreme Court in a major antitrust case addressing a split in the
circuits over whether certain patent settlements between brand-name
pharmaceutical companies and generic drug manufacturers violate the
antitrust laws. Munger Tolles represents Solvay Pharmaceuticals, a
subsidiary of AbbVie (formerly Abbott), which was victorious at the
appellate level in a challenge by the Federal Trade Commission to
so-called "reverse-payment" settlement agreements. The case is
Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, Inc.
Deals for Yucaipa
Munger Tolles represented The Yucaipa Companies in taking a
majority stake in Brew Hub LLC. Started by a group of beer company
executives, Brew Hub plans to offer the facilities to small brewers
who want to maintain control of their product while expanding
production. In April, Munger Tolles also represented The Yucaipa
Companies in an exchange transaction with Morgans Hotel Group.
Under the deal, Yucaipa will exchange convertible notes, preferred
stock and stock warrants it owns in Morgans for ownership of the
iconic Delano Hotel in South Miami Beach and Morgans' majority
interest in The Light Group, a restaurant and hospitality operator.
Morgans also has announced plans for a $100 million common stock
rights offering, which Yucaipa will backstop.
Berkshire Buys Heinz
In the food industry's largest-ever deal, Munger Tolles represented
Berkshire Hathaway, which, along with a fund managed by global
investment firm 3G Capital, announced its acquisition of H.J. Heinz
Company, one of the world's leading producers of convenient and
affordable foods. The deal has an enterprise value of $28 billion.
Heinz shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favor of the deal on
April 30. Munger Tolles also defended shareholder lawsuits alleging
that Heinz directors violated their fiduciary duty by approving the
deal without pursuing other offers. A Pennsylvania state court
dismissed the suits on April 30.
Diverse Partnership Class
Of the firm's four new partners in 2013, three are women of color.
This continued the firm's trend of promoting diverse attorneys to
partner. In the last five years, more than half of new partners
have been women or people of color. Two of the firm's new partners
in the last five years were on a reduced-hour schedule when they
Women in Combat
Munger Tolles, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of
Northern California are representing four servicewomen in
challenging the Defense Department's combat exclusion policy
barring women from serving in combat positions. The suit, Hegar v.
Panetta, was filed in November 2012 in U.S. District Court in San
Francisco. In January 2013, a week before the government's answer
was due, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced revocation of
the combat exclusion policy. The suit is pending, as the plaintiffs
are monitoring implementation throughout the armed forces.