To Our Clients and Friends:
This past year was unimaginably difficult. The global pandemic struck first, followed by an economic meltdown. Then civil unrest broke out in the streets, from Hong Kong to London and across the United States, which reckoned with mass protests over police brutality, racial injustice, one of the most divisive US presidential elections in modern history, and an even more unsettling post-election period.
This confluence of crises—spilling into the new year—has demanded much of us all. I’m proud to say that we, as a firm, have risen to meet these challenges, rallying to help our clients and communities get through some of the darkest days and turn toward a brighter future. In the worst of times, O’Melveny is at its best.
As the virus spread, we quickly assembled a firmwide Coronavirus Task Force, bringing together lawyers from different practice groups and offices to advise clients on a host of COVID-related concerns. When California’s governor needed to secure additional beds by reopening a shuttered hospital in Los Angeles and revitalizing an underutilized facility in the San Francisco Bay Area, he turned to O’Melveny, as did dozens of other clients in industries as diverse as consumer products, entertainment, financial services, health care, and insurance.
With a wave of pandemic-related, business-interruption claims threatening to drown the insurance industry, O’Melveny argued on behalf of more than 30 insurers before a judicial panel on multidistrict litigation, defeating an attempt to centralize hundreds of policyholder actions based on disparate government shutdown orders. At least 400 people from around the nation listened to the oral arguments by teleconference. In describing O’Melveny’s result, Reuters noted: “The insurance industry dodged what could have been one of the most consequential MDLs in US litigation history.”
We continued to make history in other ongoing, high-profile cases—representing Johnson & Johnson in massive opioid litigation, Bitcoin.com in the first antitrust case involving cryptocurrency, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the biggest government bankruptcy in US history. Our efforts to help restructure the island’s debt took us to the Supreme Court, where we led the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority’s successful defense of an Appointments Clause challenge to its structure, preserving the important work it has done to save Puerto Rico from financial collapse. That was just one of seven cases we handled in the 2019–20 Supreme Court Term—and one of five victories there, an impressive track record even for a team that regularly appears before the High Court.
Facing difficult market headwinds, our corporate dealmakers did remarkably well, closing approximately 250 global M&A transactions for an aggregate deal value of nearly US$90 billion. These included a slew of blockbuster sports deals involving soccer, baseball, basketball, and esports. In one of the more closely watched transactions, we represented The Friedkin Group in its US$716 million acquisition of a controlling stake in the storied Italian football club AS Roma. The O’Melveny team worked swiftly to close the deal amid the glare of global press attention, as developments in the transaction quickly became front-page news and fodder for numerous fan sites reporting rumors almost daily. Negotiations occurred across nine time zones. Documents frequently required translation. Other challenges included navigating Italian labor laws, securities and tax issues, and complications over the proposed construction of a new stadium.
Our capital markets and finance groups advised on transactions with a total combined value of US$80 billion. We represented a syndicate of underwriters in the issuance of more than US$2.6 billion in bonds for the University of California system—one of the largest financings in the higher education sector since the pandemic dealt a blow to universities. Across the Pacific, our China team handled nearly a dozen Hong Kong IPOs and secondary listings, including RemeGen’s US$588 million IPO—the world’s biggest biopharma IPO of 2020—and the US$1.92 billion Hong Kong secondary listing of GDS, a China-based data center service provider.
With a strong Silicon Valley presence, we supported the emergence and growth of numerous innovative companies, closing about 200 venture capital financings that raised more than US$6.2 billion while working on deals with 30-plus “unicorns”—private companies valued at US$1 billion or more.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND PRO BONO
Stepping up to help our communities in their moment of need has always been an O’Melveny priority. That was never truer—or more vital—than in 2020. Our firm values dictated we do our part to promote healing and progress. As the year began, an O’Melveny team in Asia set up a relief drive with MedShare, a global humanitarian aid organization, to raise money for coronavirus support in China. Through the generous contributions of our attorneys and staff, coupled with the firm’s match, MedShare shipped 1.8 million respiratory masks and 200,000 protective gowns to medical personnel, equipping healthcare professionals, clinics, and hospitals in China in their battle against the pandemic. To further help the cause, we invited our entire class of 2020 summer associates to devote the lion’s share of their summer to virus-related pro bono legal projects.
The police killings of unarmed Black men and women compelled us to do much more—both urgently and consistently—to confront the scourge of racial bias and inequality. We created a new Racial Justice Committee of firm lawyers and professionals focused on promoting a more just society and diverse profession. As part of this effort, the firm donated to three organizations dedicated to racial justice and launched the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance as a founding member. Together with more than 250 law firms, O’Melveny is working to identify and dismantle structural racism in the law. In a victory for transparency, we collaborated with other major law firms to repeal New York’s Section 50-a, which had allowed law enforcement agencies to shield police disciplinary records. And to keep the discussion of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts front and center, O’Melveny co-created the new podcast series “It’s Complicated,” which invited DE&I talent leaders, CEOs and chairs, general counsel, and board members to share their perspectives on these complex issues.
In the run-up to the US presidential election, O’Melveny lawyers and staff volunteered to work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on its voter-protection efforts, including monitoring social media and local news outlets in Georgia and Florida to expose voter intimidation, election misinformation, or any other suppressive measures. The firm also partnered with our client Humana to remotely staff the Election Protection national voter hotline, which helped voters navigate the voting process and respond to reports of problems. Altogether, more than 120 O’Melveny lawyers and staff participated in these initiatives to protect our democracy.
The ability of our talented teams to deliver for our clients and communities when they needed us most—all while working remotely—is a testament to our special firm culture, with its unmatched camaraderie and generous spirit. Those qualities helped us earn unprecedented back-to-back recognition as the top law firm to work for in Vault’s annual associate satisfaction survey. The firm earned No. 1 scores in over a dozen of Vault’s “Quality of Life” categories, including for our summer associate, diversity, and wellness programs. These high marks came on the heels of O’Melveny’s No. 1 ranking on The American Lawyer’s 2020 Midlevel Associates Survey, a measure of which firms have “done the best to deliver on the high-quality work, comfortable culture and other factors needed to keep associates happy.”
Our efforts to attract, retain, and promote diverse talent continue to pay off, with incoming partner classes at least 50% diverse every year since 2016. Half the firm’s department heads are lawyers of color and nearly three-quarters of US offices are headed by women or minorities. Our racial and gender diversity were major factors propelling us to the No. 3 spot on AmLaw’s A-List, our ninth consecutive year on this prestigious ranking of the nation’s most “well-rounded firms.”
Growing to meet our clients’ needs, we bolstered our strength in a range of practice areas, bringing in a number of lateral partners recognized for their work in M&A, corporate finance, real estate, data privacy, internet law and policy, securities litigation, and appellate matters.
While welcoming new partners, we also saw others answer the call of public service to assume key posts in the Biden Administration. We could not be prouder of our dear colleague Lisa Monaco, President Biden’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General. If confirmed, Lisa will oversee the day-to-day operations of the DOJ’s more than 110,000 employees and its US$32 billion budget. Lisa joins two other former O’Melveny partners in the nation’s capital at this crucial moment: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Ali Mayorkas. Together, they honor a great firm legacy of public service at the highest levels in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Now that 2020 is behind us, our focus is on helping you achieve success this year and beyond. One way we’re doing that is through The Boardroom, an online resource featuring a changing array of interviews, videos, and alerts that address fundamental challenges confronting global corporations these days—from pandemics to data privacy to trade wars.
One of the most important lessons to draw from the past year is how much we depend on one another to overcome our most difficult challenges even when we’re physically apart. Carrying that lesson into the new year, O’Melveny looks forward to all the good that we can accomplish together.
Be well and stay safe.
Bradley J. Butwin
Chair, O'Melveny & Myers LLP