Heller Ehrman has formed a dissolution committee to oversee the winding down of the firm which is due to start as early as today (26 September).
The committee is chaired by New York bankruptcy partner Peter Benvenutti and also features debt finance specialist Lynne Loacker, a partner in the firm’s Venture Law Group and a member of Heller’s policy committee.
The news comes as rumours of a ‘palace coup’ circulate the US legal market.
“[Chairman] Matt Larrabee is no more and [former chairman] Barry Levin is running things again,” a former Heller partner claimed yesterday (25 September).
The rumours that Larrabee (pictured) had stood down in favour of former chairman Levin came just one day after the Heller chairman emailed the entire firm, apologising for his lack of contact in recent months.
“I am profoundly sorry that I have not been in direct communication with you recently,” Larrabee wrote. “We realise that there has been a lot of news coverage about our firm, and it is wrong to have that be your source of information.”
However, a Heller spokesman denied the rumours were accurate: "Matt Larrabee has not stepped down, nor has the subject been brought up, in any manner."
Nonetheless, Larrabee’s statement is unlikely to garner the chairman much sympathy with many Heller partners, former and current.
“How things got so bad, so fast is simply incredible,” said a former partner.
Several partners contacted by The Lawyer said they had written off all or part of the capital they had remaining in the firm.
“They still owe me money,” said another ex-Heller partner. “At most I’ll get 10 per cent of my money. I’m writing off the whole thing. Some people have more than a million. How much are they going to get back? The partners who have left recently will get nothing.”
The lawyer added that Heller’s reported hopes for an orderly dissolution were fanciful.
“It’s going to get bloody,” he said. “People will have to pay for this.”