H. Rodgin Cohen
Chairman, Sullivan & Cromwell
By his involvement in numerous bank mergers, Cohen has fundamentally altered the banking landscape. He worked, for example, on the combinations of Chase Manhattan and Chemical Bank, Mitsubishi and Bank of Tokyo, and, more recently, First Union and Wachovia. Last year, the 58-year-old oversaw the acquisition of Mexico's Banacci by Citigroup, in a $12.8 billion deal, and served as counsel on some 30 other financial-service mergers, including three European deals valued at more than $26 billion each.
Partner, Bingham Dana
Bankruptcies neared record levels this year, and Richard Gitlin worked on some of the largest global ones. He pioneered the process of transnational bankruptcies, and his breakthrough came in 1991, when his plan for reorganizing the late publisher Robert Maxwell's estate was approved in both the United States and the UK. Currently, Gitlin is applying his talents to huge debt restructurings in Singapore (Asia Pulp & Paper Co.) and England (Marconi), among others. In addition, he is working with Japan and the IMF to develop a sovereign debt restructuring system.
Partner, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach
In 1995, when Congress was cracking down on securities-fraud cases, its main target was San Diego litigator Bill Lerach. Since then, however, such cases have exploded — up 60 percent last year, according to a Stanford University study — and by all accounts Lerach has flourished. Lead attorney in hundreds of suits against companies whose stock prices have dropped, he got top legal billing this year in the shareholder suit against Enron, and then expanded it to include nine investment banks and two national law firms. The 56-year-old attorney's views on financial reporting and financial fraud have been roundly criticized by Corporate America. In the wake of Enron, however, those views have found a wider audience.
New York State Attorney General
In case anyone has forgotten, as New York Attorney General in the 1980s, Rudolph Giuliani launched a successful attack on Wall Street's Michael Milken, which in turn fueled his political career. Now here comes Eliot Spitzer, whose probe into conflicts of interest among Wall Street stock analysts has thus far produced a public apology from Merrill Lynch CEO David Komansky and catapulted Spitzer onto the international scene. Armed with damning E-mails from former star analysts such as Henry Blodget, the 42-year-old former prosecutor wants Merrill and other brokerages to make sweeping changes to further separate investment banking and research. If they don't, he may hold public hearings or make criminal cases out of any civil suits the SEC pursues.