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January 25, 2012 7:21 PM

Shearman, Fenwick & West Tapped by Twitter and Facebook

Posted by Brian Baxter

While media and entertainment companies in Hollywood have kept their lawyers busy lately with a pair of big deals, signs suggest 2012 could be an even bigger year for dealmaking among technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Twitter.

This week Apple topped ExxonMobil as the world’s most valuable company after a record-breaking $46.3 billion in fourth-quarter sales, indicating that the Cupertino, California–based juggernaut certainly has the cash on hand if it is inclined to do some acquiring. Meanwhile, Facebook appeared to be continuing to lay the groundwork for an initial public offering and Twitter picked up Internet security startup Dasient.

Shearman & Sterling M&A partners Steve Camahort and Dana Kromm in San Francisco are leading a team from the firm advising Twitter on its acquisition of Dasient, which makes products that protect Web sites from malware attacks and other types of online abuse.

Also working on the deal for San Francisco–based Twitter are Shearman tax partner Laurence Crouch, employee benefits partner Doreen Lilienfeld, and IP transactions partner Samuel Waxman. Twitter’s general counsel is Alexander Macgillivray, a onetime in-house lawyer at Google who recently took a public swipe at his former employer.

Sunnyvale, California–based Dasient, which was founded in 2009 by former Google employees, is being advised on the deal by Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian.

Dasient's purchase by Twitter—the terms of which were undisclosed—is the latter's second acquisition in as many weeks. News aggregation startup Summify announced on its blog last Thursday that it had been bought out by Twitter. Canadian firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin advised Vancouver-based Summify on the sale.

Twitter’s Silicon Valley and social networking rival Facebook has reportedly friended Fenwick & West for legal advice on its long-awaited IPO. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that trading of Facebook shares on secondary markets had been halted until January 27 at the direction of the company's lawyers from Fenwick. (Forbes took a closer look at what the halt might mean.)

The Mountain View, California–based Am Law 200 firm, which is known for its strong ties to startups and other emerging companies, has handled most of Facebook's previous acquisitions and financings. Fenwick partner Ted Wang, who has also done work for Twitter, was brought on after a beauty contest in 2007 to serve as Facebook's outside corporate counsel, according to sibling publication The Recorder.

While both Facebook and Fenwich declined Bloomberg's request for comment on whether an IPO is in the offing, one of Silicon Valley's worst-kept secrets is that the social networking site is in fact preparing a public listing that could raise $10 billion and value the Menlo Park, California–based company at $100 billion.

The New York Times reported late last year that Facebook could be forced to go public as soon as May because it has likely accumulated more than 500 shareholders, an amount that will eventually trigger the disclosure of confidential financial information.

Fenwick chairman Gordon Davidson, who chatted with The Recorder last year about the new tech boom, did not respond to a request for comment on whether his firm was preparing just such an IPO for Facebook. A firm spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the matter.

This week Fenwick also advised San Mateo, California–based Red Beacon, an online site founded in 2008 that connects users to maintenance and repair professionals, for its sale to The Home Depot. Terms of the home improvement chain’s acquisition of Red Beacon were not disclosed.

And then there’s the 800-pound gorilla of the tech sector: Apple.

Despite some debate over where Apple makes its enormously popular products, the company cofounded by the late Steve Jobs appears poised to lavish some of its excess billions in revenue on acquisitions, a welcome proposition for the company's corporate lawyers.

Apple's in-house attorneys already handled a $400 million hardware acquisition earlier this month, and the company’s net worth has surpassed that of several sovereigns.

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