Crisis Response &
Incident Investigation

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Jack Massey, Steve Roberts Offer Advice for In-House, Outside Counsel in CLE Event: ‘Perfecting the Partnership’

Posted on: June 23rd, 2017

Eversheds Sutherland (US) attorneys Jack Massey and Steve Roberts are presenting “Perfecting the Partnership: What In-House Lawyers Wish Outside Counsel Understood About Litigation and Vice-Versa” to the Houston chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. This continuing legal education event is set for June 28, 2017.
Corporate dispute resolution and litigation can involve huge, bet-the-company trials to breach-of-contract matters that are handled out of court. All require careful strategic planning and an understanding of the counterparties and issues, all with an eye toward business objectives.A panel of veteran litigators will discuss best practices in working with outside counsel on disputes including:
• Beginning of matter strategic planning and scoping
• Communication
• Budgeting
• When things don’t go as planned
• End-of-matter feedback
Mr. Massey and Mr. Roberts are commercial litigators with years of experience working with in-house counsel. They also have successful track records of handling crisis response and internal investigations. Both were key players in the investigations and litigation following the BP Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Houston Partner Mark Sherrill Quoted on Texas Bankruptcy Spike

Posted on: July 21st, 2016

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP bankruptcy Partner Mark Sherrill was quoted in the Houston Chronicle in an article headlined “Bankruptcy filings on rise in Houston,” which zeroed in on the oil price collapse and its impact. The story reported that the world’s Energy Capital saw 210 companies file for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Southern District of Texas during the first six months this year. That compares to just 98 filings for the same period in 2015.

The bankruptcy spike didn’t surprise Houston economic observers. And Mr. Sherrill noted that as the downturn dragged on and lenders cut off credit, the financial outlook only darkened for many companies.

The numbers cited in the article may actually under-represent the true picture. The data did not include Houston-based companies that filed for Chapter 11 in other states, such as Delaware. Mr. Sherrill told the Chronicle that in the past, large companies favored Delaware and New York for their experience and efficiency. However, he said, Houston’s federal court has changed some administrative rules to match Delaware’s speed, and that has perhaps encouraged more companies to file in Houston.

Mr. Sherrill joined the Houston office from Sutherland’s Washington office earlier this year to focus on complex energy bankruptcy matters. In recent months, he has been widely quoted in Texas and energy media on the potential industry impact of bankruptcy court rulings that allowed certain distressed producers to break gas-gathering contracts.


Houston Partner in Charge Daniel Johnson Makes Select ‘Who’s Who in Energy List’

Posted on: December 8th, 2015

Daniel Johnson, Partner in Charge of the Houston office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, was selected among the Bayou City’s most influential energy leaders by the Houston Business Journal, which recently published its 2015 Who’s Who in Energy list.

This year’s rankings were among the most selective in recent years with only 38 local lawyers chosen among the leaders in various sectors of energy and the firms that service energy companies. The honorees were chosen by the publication’s journalists based on nominations.

Mr. Johnson has focused his practice on energy litigation since the beginning of his legal career more than a decade ago. He was deeply involved in the successful representation of an international drilling contractor in high-profile litigation after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Mr. Johnson also advises energy clients on regulatory investigations and compliance issues, contractual liability exposure and risk shifting provisions, and incident response and crisis management.

With colleagues in New York, London, Washington D.C., Austin, Atlanta, and Geneva, Sutherland’s Houston office continues to forge the firm’s strong reputation as a trusted legal adviser in the energy space.  Daniel’s selection to the Houston Business Journal’s energy leaders list is continued confirmation of Sutherland’s reputation in the Houston energy market in the areas of crisis management, project development, maritime law and commercial litigation.

Partner David Baay Quoted by Law360 on Significance of BP Settlement

Posted on: August 5th, 2015

Houston Partner David Baay praised U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier for his “excellent” management of the insurance dispute between BP and Transocean Ltd. in an interview with Law360. Mr. Baay, a member of the Sutherland Asbill & Brennan team representing Transocean in the litigation that followed the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, was interviewed by the online legal news service for two stories about recent developments in the case.

BP agreed to an $18.7 billion settlement with the U.S. government that ended most of the civil litigation related to the disaster. In a July 2, 2015, article headlined, “Without a Deal, BP Would Have Faced Harsher Penalties” (subscription required), Mr. Baay told Law360 that BP “didn’t have any other recourse” once the oil company failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to review Judge Barbier’s decision on liability under the Clean Water Act. “I think the settlement makes sense,” he said.

He also noted that a lesson other companies should take from the outcome is that a very significant portion of the settlement was the result of the Oil Pollution Act, Clean Water Act and natural resources damage assessments. The amount of the settlement was related to the lengthy time it took to cap the gushing deepwater well.

A July 6 follow-up article, headlined “’Masterful’ Judge Credited For BP Case’s Timely End” (subscription required), examined Judge Barbier’s handling of the BP-Transocean litigation. Mr. Baay also was quoted in that story.

Early on, the judge had “a script or playbook that he charted for this, dividing it up into multiple phases,” Baay said. “And I think part of his thinking in doing that was to allow the possibility for settlement after each of these phases, because the parties would have a preview of what their total exposure would be given the initial liability finding and then the total hydrocarbon release finding, and then ultimately, what the multiplier was going to be under the Clean Water Act.”

Mr. Baay called the judge’s oversight “excellent,” in large part due to his thorough planning.



Partner Jack Massey Quoted in Midstream Business Magazine on Pipeline Safety

Posted on: May 19th, 2015

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan partner Jack Massey was quoted recently in Midstream Business magazine on the move toward tougher federal regulations for gas pipelines and trains carrying crude oil.

“What’s driving new regulations and change to regulations right now is public concern about safety, which stretches from Congress and regulators to industry and the people,” Mr. Massey told the magazine. “I think that concern will best be handled through strong collaboration between the regulators and industry. The industry’s done a very good job of being on the front end of safety regulation and adopting reasonable regulation, and I think that will continue.”

Mr. Massey noted that as more oil and gas moves through the expanding midstream system, and as towns and suburbs grow around formerly isolated pipelines, “the risk of incidents in high-consequence areas increases. That’s something that will hold the public eye and drive a regulatory and safety agenda.”

The article headlined, “Safety First, As a Rule” (subscription required), appears in the magazine’s April issue.

Baay quoted by AP, Law360, Others on Impact of Court Decision on Chemical Board’s Authority in Transocean Case

Posted on: March 24th, 2015

Comment from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan partner and energy litigator David Baay of Houston was carried by media across the country in stories about the impact of a federal appeals court decision confirming the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s power to investigate offshore oil spills.

The decision has “some significant ramifications for offshore operators,” Mr. Baay told The Associated Press in a national story headlined, “Court: Chemical Safety Board Can Investigate Offshore Spills.” The result is “that any offshore incident of significance is likely to face one more federal agency among an already crowded field.”

The AP story was posted on dozens of news websites, including The New York Times, ABC News, Yahoo News, CNBC, many local TV websites and newspapers, and the London-based Daily Mail.

The chemical board was investigating the April 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico which sank Transocean Deepwater Drilling Inc.’s rig and led to a massive oil spill. The chemical board had subpoenaed Transocean for thousands of pages of documents. Baay and others on Sutherland’s legal team representing Transocean contended the board was not authorized to investigate marine oil spills.

In September 2014, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Chemical Safety Board. And on March 12, 2015, the full court rejected Transocean’s request for a rehearing.

In an article headlined, “Transocean loses appeal in safety board subpoena case,” the Houston Chronicle also quoted Mr. Baay: “The Chemical Safety Board — an agency with no rule making or enforcement authority, and one that struggles to survive from year to year — will now be emboldened to investigate any marine spill on an offshore rig that might possibly have a related, unanticipated hazardous emission.”

Mr. Baay added in an interview with Law360 (subscription required): “It’s a bit troubling to these operators, because on the first front you’re dealing with agencies that have real authority, like the DOJ (Department of Justice). The fact that you’re answering to a federal agency that has no power beyond an ability to investigate, it’s a distraction.”

He also pointed out an additional troubling bit of fallout from the 5th Circuit decision in the article by Texas Lawyer (subscription required), “5th Circuit Gives Chemical Board Subpoena Power in Deepwater Horizon Probe.” “One more impact is that the Fifth Circuit ruled in this case that the Deepwater Horizon rig is a stationary source,” he explained. “That is inconsistent with how the Fifth Circuit has classified semisubmersible deepwater drilling rigs in the past.”

Daniel Johnson Quoted by Argus on Crude-by-Rail Challenges

Posted on: August 11th, 2014

Daniel Johnson, Partner-in-Charge of the Houston office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP , recently was quoted about the challenges of transporting crude by rail in a publication of Argus Media, the London-based provider of data, news and market intelligence on global energy markets.

In an article headlined “Rolling Resistance” in the subscriber-only Argus Petroleum Transportation North America, Mr. Johnson discussed the regulatory patchwork of state and local laws confronting companies that want to ship oil by train. Specifically, many highly populated locales are wary of approving construction for new rail delivery unloading terminals.

“The industry is having to react in a very piecemeal manner,” Mr. Johnson says in the article. “If you are a shipper, rail company or producer, it is hard to know, ‘What do I need to go do, where do I need to make my investment so I am able to comply with the regulatory landscape?’”

Mr. Johnson predicts that ultimately industry will get most of its projects built, though not as quickly or easily as hoped. “As a society we are responding to a need, and that need is to add infrastructure and enhance infrastructure to support a growth industry in the U.S. It is not always a clean and easy process,” he tells Argus readers, “but I do think the regulatory process will unfold in a way to accommodate everybody.”

Sutherland Partner Daniel Johnson Talks to Houston Business Journal about Union with Energy Firm Arbis LLP

Posted on: May 14th, 2014

HOUSTON – Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP Partner Daniel Johnson was interviewed by the Houston Business Journal about what the firm’s recent union with European energy boutique Arbis LLP will mean for clients.

Mr. Johnson says Arbis Sutherland LLP, with offices in London and Geneva, bolsters Sutherland’s energy practice, especially in the transactional and trading areas. “It’s sort of a natural expansion for us. With Arbis, we saw the opportunity to grow our expertise, and felt we needed a presence there (in the U.K.) to serve our clients,” he said.

“They offer a pretty broad range of energy expertise. In particular, the energy sector in terms of commodity trading, shipping. They’re also very well regarded in the upstream energy space.”

Read the full interview, “Houston-based law office joins forces with UK firm to expand energy expertise,” here.