Daily Journal Names Arent Fox LLP’s Automotive Industry Practice Group One of the Top Five Practice Groups of the Year
LOS ANGELES, CA — FEBRUARY 15, 2011 — Daily Journal, California’s leading legal publication, has named Arent Fox’s automotive industry practice group one of the Top Five practice groups of the year.
An article about the practice was published in the “Top California Law Firms” supplement of the February 9 edition of the Daily Journal. The article, “Thinking Outside the Box for Automotive Clients,” may be read by clicking here.*
“Comprising a lineup of lobbyists, litigators and regulatory specialists, Arent Fox’s automotive industry practice group aims to offer the comprehensive solutions of a full-service legal mechanic,” writes the Daily Journal.
“We are pleased to be selected by the Daily Journal as one of its Top Five practice groups and to be included in its ‘Top California Law Firms’ issue,” said Aaron Jacoby, chair of Arent Fox’s automotive industry practice group. Noting that the honor was based on the work of numerous Arent Fox practice groups — including government relations, bankruptcy, regulatory and transactional — residing in all three of the firm’s offices (Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and New York), Mr. Jacoby said, “This is a team effort and I am proud to be part of such an esteemed group of attorneys and professionals who are so dedicated to providing clients with innovative and effective service during a time of dramatic change for the automotive industry.”
“Aaron and his team have been enormously successful in helping clients address many of the extraordinarily complex legal issues and challenges faced by today’s automotive industry,” said Arent Fox chairman Mark M. Katz. “This recognition is well deserved.”
In selecting the automotive industry practice as one of its top practice groups, the publication noted Arent Fox’s success on behalf of two firm clients in separate matters — the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights and Honda of North Hollywood.
The Committee to Restore Dealer Rights is a national coalition of automobile dealers established in June, 2009, in the wake of announcements by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler that the two automotive giants were declaring bankruptcy. As a result of the Chapter 11 filing, thousands of GM and Chrysler auto dealerships were slated to be shut down, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs for American workers.
To help combat the forced closures of the dealerships, longtime Arent Fox client Jack Fitzgerald, who owned nine dealerships in the Washington, DC, area — seven of which were set to be shut down by GM and Chrysler — turned to Arent Fox.
Mr. Fitzgerald called Mary Jo Dowd, a partner in Arent Fox’s bankruptcy practice in Washington, DC, and asked the firm to draft a bill that would allow dealers to challenge the closures and reinstate franchises.
Next, the Daily Journal writes, the Arent Fox team, including Ms. Dowd and Dan Renberg, co-leader of the firm’s government relations practice, “embarked on a multi-pronged effort to restore the franchise agreements. Some began to craft a bill that would give recourse to terminated dealerships. Others undertook an ambitious lobbying effort, discussing the matter with congressional leadership and orchestrating an operation that flew hundreds of dealers to meet with representatives” in Washington, DC.
“Fruition came in December 2009, when President Barack Obama signed the provisions into law,” according to the article. “Under the new legislation, terminated dealerships could challenge their closures through arbitration. Within a month, more than 1,500 dealerships filed for arbitration. By the end of March, 600 franchise agreements had been reinstated.”
Arent Fox’s campaign on behalf of the dealerships was later selected as one of the “Top 10 Lobbying Triumphs” of the year by The Hill, the highly respected Washington, DC newspaper dedicated to covering the US Congress.
In its February 9 article, the Daily Journal also highlights Arent Fox’s major courtroom victory for its client Honda of North Hollywood last October when Mr. Jacoby and partner Richard Buckley obtained a defense judgment in a class action trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“If [the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights] case is among the automotive industry group’s glitziest victories, those like Medrazzo v. Honda of North Hollywood are its bread and butter,” writes the Daily Journal.
Honda of North Hollywood, a motorcycle dealership, faced a $10 million class action when it brought in Arent Fox. The plaintiffs accused the dealership under California's Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act of failing to disclose fees related to the shipping, assembling and insuring of motorcycles. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 4,000 plaintiffs who purchased motorcycles from the dealership who saw unexpected charges, which ranged between a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.
It was a bet-the-company case for the family-owned dealership because it could not absorb a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Buckley successfully argued that the lead plaintiff lacked standing to bring the case. The Daily Journal reported on the case in October, 2010, when the case was dismissed, writing, “A judge ruled on Monday that a local motorcycle dealership was not liable for $10 million in damages for allegedly hiding extra fees from its customers, dismissing the class action that defendants claimed would shutter their business. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Shook granted a motion for judgment filed by the dealer, Honda of North Hollywood, during the trial.”
*Reprinted with the permission of Daily Journal Corp. (2011).