Lawyer Who Fought Chrysler Deal Described as Tenacious to a Fault

Updated: Some rival lawyers wonder why White & Case partner Thomas Lauria sought to stall Chrysler’s sale to Fiat, a deal inked this morning after the bankruptcy veteran’s unsuccessful bid to stop it.

Lauria, who heads the bankruptcy practice at White & Case, represents a group of Indiana pension funds set to receive about 29 cents on the dollar after the sale, the Wall Street Journal reports. The likely alternative—a Chrysler liquidation—would have given Lauria’s clients even less money, the story says.

Lauria, however, sees bigger issues, according to the story. He told the newspaper he wonders “whether our judiciary is today able to fulfill its constitutional mission to ensure that the rule of law prevails—particularly in the face of perceived crisis.”

Lauria spoke to the newspaper before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused his request to delay the sale. The court order emphasized that “a denial of a stay is not a decision on the merits of the underlying legal issues.” Today, the deal was completed, the New York Times reports.

White & Case has earned $2 million in fees representing the funds, according to a New York Times DealBook story noted by the Am Law Daily.

The Wall Street Journal story says Lauria has never argued a case before the Supreme Court, but he has been in the middle of big bankruptcy issues for almost 20 years. “Friends and foes alike say [Lauria] is tenacious to a fault,” the newspaper says.

He subpoenaed e-mail in the Chrysler case that showed what some of his opponents thought of his legal moves. A government lawyer called him a terrorist, while a top Chrysler adviser said he was ridiculous.

“I must admit, I am enjoying the heck out of this,” Lauria told the Wall Street Journal. His persistence may resurface in yet another big case; some General Motors bondholders have asked him to take on their challenge to that automaker’s bankruptcy.

Updated at 9 a.m. CT to include the news that the Chrysler-Fiat deal has been completed and a 9:45 a.m. to note fees earned.

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