The $6 Billion Man: Irv Terrell Leads Asarco and Creditors to Gargantuan Judgment Against Grupo Mexico
For a trial lawyer, getting a judgment north of $1 billion is like winning an NCAA national championship.And Irv Terrell of Baker Botts has now done it twice. Many will recall his first billion-dollar case from back in the 1980s, when Terrell, Baker Botts partner John Jeffers, Jr., and Joe Jamail represented Pennzoil Company against Texaco in the fight for Getty Oil. That litigation resulted in a $10.5 billion verdict and judgment, and later settled for $3 billion.
His latest came Thursday, on behalf of Asarco, a bankrupt Tucson-based copper mining company, and its creditors. Brownsville, Texas, federal district court judge Andrew Hanen ordered Grupo Mexico SAG, the largest mining company in Mexico, to return more than 260 million shares of a Peruvian mining company that it had transferred in 2003 from Asarco, a Grupo subsidiary, to another subsidiary. According to Asarco, the stock is worth approximately $4.68 billion, based on its closing price last week. Judge Hanen also ordered that Asarco be paid lost dividends on the stock, as well as prejudgment interest on the dividends. Subtract the $747 million Asarco was originally paid for the stock, and the total judgment comes to about $6 billion. On Friday, Grupo Mexico, represented by Alan Stone of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and Brian Antweil of Haynes and Boone, said it would appeal the ruling.
Terrell certainly earned his win. He filed the Asarco suit two years ago, alleging that the stock transfer was an effort by Grupo to thwart Asarco’s creditors after the company had come under financial pressure and was facing significant environmental and asbestos liabilities. The bench trial on liability was held over four weeks last year between May and June. Last August, in a 190-page opinion, Judge Hanen found that the transfer of the stock was fraudulent and that Grupo Mexico was liable under three different theories.
When we asked Terrell where he rated this win in his impressive career, which includes a starring role as trial counsel for George W. Bush in that little Florida election dispute, he declined to opine, saying simply that he was “humbled to have won this case.”