Over the last forty years, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC has established itself as a respected litigation boutique known for its seasoned and talented lawyers. The firm is the first port of call for many corporations and individuals on their most sensitive and high-profile White Collar Defense, Securities Enforcement, Regulatory & Government Investigations, and Civil Litigation matters. Morvillo Abramowitz and its predecessor firms have honed over decades a skill and expertise in the types of cases and investigations which now occupy the time and attention of so many companies and individuals.
Our roots trace back to 1972 and the predecessor firm, Martin and Obermaier. Former government colleagues, John Martin's and Otto Obermaier’s boutique firm represented businessmen and political officials embroiled in ‘sensitive’ matters that New York’s large firms steered clear of. One year later, Robert G. Morvillo, a former head of the Securities Fraud Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan and a former Chief of its Criminal Division, joined them and the firm’s name changed to Martin, Obermaier, and Morvillo. White collar defense work was their focus, reflecting increases in federal resources being deployed to white collar crime and the subsequent increases in indictments against corporate executives. Merrill Lynch became an early client of the firm, with Morvillo serving as the financial giant’s principal outside counsel on regulatory issues.
In 1979, after serving as Chief of the Criminal Division in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Elkan Abramowitz joined the firm, succeeding John Martin, who in 1980, left private practice for public service, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and later became a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Abramowitz had previously served as Assistant Deputy Mayor for the City of New York and as a Special Counsel to the Select Committee on Crime for the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1985, after serving as an Assistant Special Prosecutor in the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and later as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Lawrence Iason became a partner at the firm. In 1988, Iason left to head the New York office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, returning to the firm in 1991.
In 1989, Otto Obermaier left the firm to become United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In that same year Paul Grand, who had also served as Chief of the Securities Fraud Unit and a founding partner of Grand & Ostrow, joined the firm. Grand was also no stranger to the types of big insider trading and securities fraud matters circling financial institutions, both as a prosecutor and in private practice.
In 1991, when Larry Iason returned to the firm, Michael C. Silberberg also became a name partner of the firm, now Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg. Silberberg, a co-author of the frequently cited “Civil Practice in the Southern District of New York,” focused his practice on civil litigation and helped to extend the range of matters handled by the firm for its high profile clients. He was also a founding author of the New York Law Journal’s Southern District Civil Practice Roundup column.
With the untimely death of Michael Silberberg in 2002, the firm added two name partners with long tenures at the firm and tremendous litigation experience–Robert J. Anello and Barry A. Bohrer–becoming Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, P.C. Robert J. Anello joined the firm as an Associate in 1980 and by 2002 had developed a wide-reaching practice that included white collar criminal defense, complex civil litigation, and internal corporate investigations and reviews. His clients, individuals and institutions such as law firms, accounting firms, banks, and brokerage firms, also included Deloitte & Touche LLP and Morgan Stanley, both in connection with those firms’ participation in SEC Look-Back Programs. Prior to joining Morvillo Abramowitz in 1987, Barry A. Bohrer was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he served as both Chief Appellate Attorney and Chief of the Major Crimes Unit. At the firm, he developed an active trial and appellate practice handling white collar criminal and complex civil matters in federal and state courts. Bohrer left the firm in 2013.
Morvillo Abramowitz's leadership in the field of white collar defense has long been widely recognized. In 2003 Chambers and Partners, in their first USA Leading Lawyers Guide, noted that sources described the firm as, “In a class by itself" also saying that the team of "independently substantial players" won recognition as a first stop for high net-worth individuals under investigation for white collar crimes.
Throughout the decade and beyond, the firm’s matters, both white collar and civil litigation, have remained current, cutting edge and high profile, among them:
- The representation of Timothy Rigas, the former Chief Financial Officer of Adelphia Communications Corporation in his bank fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy trial.
- The representation and ultimate dismissal of all federal charges of bank fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice that David Stockman, former CEO of Collins & Aikman, private equity firm partner, and Budget Director under President Ronald Reagan, faced in his role as Chief Executive for the bankrupt auto parts maker.
- The representation of Woody Allen in his custody battle with Mia Farrow.
- The dismissal of all charges against Scot McDonald, the former Controller of EDS Corporation, by the SEC of violations of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1933 and Rule 10b-5 in connection with fraud allegedly committed by Delphi Corporation and various Delphi employees.
- The dismissal of all claims against Renato Negrin, a former portfolio manager for Millennium Partners L.P. in the SEC’s first-ever insider trading case involving credit default swaps (CDS).
- The dismissal of the SEC’s case against Afshin Mohebbi, the former President and Chief Operating Officer of Qwest Communications International, Inc. a 6-year battle finally resolved in 2011. The SEC had alleged that Mr. Mohebbi and others overstated revenue and failed to disclose Qwest’s reliance on sales of indefeasible rights of use, or IRUs.
- The full vindication, after almost nine years of hard fought litigation, for client Kenneth Lipper. When a hedge fund managed by Mr. Lipper was dissolved in 2002 after it was revealed that the fund’s portfolio manager engaged in a mismarking fraud, Mr. Lipper was named in nearly 20 lawsuits and was accused of committing fraud, acting negligently, and breaching fiduciary duties.
- A successful jury verdict for Donald Drapkin, the former Vice Chairman of MacAndrews & Forbes, a company wholly owned by its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ronald O. Perelman, in two civil actions pertaining to a breach-of-contract pertaining to his severance agreement.
The firm can also boast of its prestigious alumni, among them Cyrus Vance, Jr. who joined the firm in 2004 as partner. Vance left the firm in 2009 to become the New York County District Attorney; David Meister, now the Director of the Division of Enforcement of the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission, responsible for the overall direction and operation of the CFTC's enforcement program; and Neil M. Barofsky who until 2011 was the Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General charged with overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program.
In December 2011, the firm, as well as the entire white collar bar, mourned the passing of Robert G. Morvillo.
While Morvillo Abramowitz continues to be well known for its high-profile representations, many of the firm’s greatest successes over the years have been for clients who never become known to the public. The firm continues its tradition of dedication to its clients needs and first-rate advocacy–in and out of court–which it has refined and expanded over the past decades.