Freedom's firm linked to related companies
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A law firm representing Freedom Industries in bankruptcy court has a history of representing companies associated with Pennsylvania coal executive J. Clifford Forrest.
In court filing Tuesday, McGuireWoods LLP listed its current and previous relationships with companies and individuals related to the bankruptcy case.
The firm noted its prior representation was in cases that did not involve nor relate to Freedom Industries. It also disclosed that Freedom's current corporate secretary used to be an attorney at the firm and now works for Forrest's mining company.
In the filing, McGuireWoods said it represented Forrest -- the sole equity owner of Chemstream Holdings Inc., Freedom's parent company -- in a 2011 case. The filing said that case involved "personal matters."
The firm also represented Rosebud Mining Co. and its subsidiaries in cases that were not related to Freedom. Forrest is president of Rosebud, and the filing reports the company is owned or substantially controlled by him.
McGuireWoods, which has more than 900 attorneys, also listed that is has represented several other coal and chemical companies.
In the filing, McGuireWoods said it would not represent Freedom in cases against Rosebud, Forrest or any of the other companies it listed. Charleston law firm Barth & Thompson has been approved as Freedom's local and special conflicts counsel and will take care of cases involving those parties.
The McGuireWoods filing also said Matthew Mazefsky, Freedom's corporate secretary, once worked as an associate at the firm. It noted Mazefsky also serves as general counsel for Forrest's Rosebud mining company.
McGruireWoods said in the filing it listed this information was listed "out of an abundance of caution."
Mazefsky's signature appears on Freedom Industries' recent certificate of merger document filed with the Secretary of State's office. That document lists Mazefsky as Freedom's secretary.
Mazefsky's LinkedIn profile also lists him as Rosebud's general counsel and his dates of employment match the dates listed in the McGruireWoods court filing.
On Wednesday, the Office of the U.S. Trustee appointed an official committee of unsecured creditors in the case. The committee is designed to look out for these creditors' interests.
An unsecured creditor typically gets what is left over after secured creditors -- those that have a some type of collateral or legal claim on company assets -- are paid.
Court documents listed these unsecured creditors: Larry Bostick, Archer Daniels Midland; Daniel K. Adkins, Hartman & Tyner Inc., also known as Mardi Gras Casino; Charles W. Lawler, Rogers Electrical Contracting Company Inc.; Stephen Smith of Charleston; and Carolyn Mount of West Virginia American Water Co.
The water company has said in previous filings that it is the largest unsecured creditor in Freedom's bankruptcy case.
These creditors represent larger interests. Mardi Gras Casino is an example of a company that had to shut down its business because of the leak. Smith represents an average person affected by the water crisis.
Anthony Majestro, Smith's attorney, said the creation of such a committee is common in larger cases like this one.
In a separate filing, the committee asked the court to delay the next round of hearings in the case to give it more time to look through Freedom's finances and pending motions. It also said it wanted more time to hire additional counsel and financial advisors.
The bankruptcy court had set a final hearing on the Freedom's bankruptcy financing motion at 1 p.m. Feb. 11. The court granted the request to delay the hearing and rescheduled it to 10 a.m. on Feb. 21.
The court had also previously scheduled a separate morning hearing on Feb. 11 to deal with Freedom's motions to hire financial advisors and special litigation counsel.
The committee asked the court to move these hearings to Feb. 25 to give it more time to catch up. The court granted that motion as well.
In the order, the court said Freedom has yet to file filed its schedules, statements of financial affairs and other necessary documents.
The court said until Freedom files these documents, parties won't have a "reasonable opportunity" to review information and see whether to object to motions. Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.