Lawyer for Goldman's Tourre to join Kramer Levin

NEW YORK Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:03pm EST

NEW YORK Nov 13 (Reuters) - Sean Coffey, a New York attorney who represented investors in litigation over WorldCom Inc's collapse and defended former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre at trial, is joining the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

Coffey, who was also a one-time candidate for New York attorney general, said Wednesday that he will be joining as a partner and chairman of its complex litigation group effective Dec. 1.

Coffey is a rarity in the legal sector, where lawyers are often entrenched at big law firms representing either plaintiffs or defendants and rarely move between them.

"I don't consider myself a plaintiffs' lawyer or defense lawyer, I consider myself an advocate who likes to try cases," Coffey said.

Coffey, 57, was co-lead counsel at trial for Tourre, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc vice president who the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused of misleading investors in a mortgage investment called Abacus 2007-AC1.

A federal jury in New York found Tourre liable on six of the seven charges against him in August. His lawyers have asked for a new trial.

Coffey, a former federal prosecutor, joined the Tourre case shortly after the closure of a company he had co-founded in 2011 called BlackRobe Capital Partners that had aimed to provide financing for complex litigation.

Prior to setting up BlackRobe, Coffey had run unsuccessfully as a candidate in the 2010 Democratic primary race to succeed then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

He joined the race after leaving the New York plaintiffs law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann in 2009. He made his mark at the firm obtaining $6.1 billion in settlements for investors in WorldCom Inc, which filed for bankruptcy in 2002.

"The Fabrice Tourre trial this summer reminded people I like to try complicated cases, and a bunch of firms reached out," Coffey said Wednesday.

Barry Berke, co-chairman of Kramer Levin's litigation group, said Coffey's arrival will expand the firm's ability to file lawsuits for institutional clients, who he said are increasingly interested in bringing cases.

Berke added, though, that the 375-lawyer firm is not going to compete with litigation boutiques that have made a specialty of suing banks on behalf of financial clients.

"We're not going to sue banks or accounting firms," Berke said.

Coffey is not the only lawyer from Tourre's trial to land a law firm job. Matthew Martens, who represented the SEC in the case and was the agency's chief litigation counsel, recently joined the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

News of Coffey's move was first reported by The New York Times.