Goldman's Grocer Suit Takes Early Turn With Bid to Oust Law Firm

(Bloomberg) -- A lawsuit that pits a regional grocery distributor against top Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. took a turn with an attempt to oust the law firm representing United Natural Foods Inc.

U.S. Bancorp, one of the defendants, plans to file a motion to have Quinn Emanuel ejected from the case because it represented the bank in another matter, according to a filing Wednesday that was signed by the Wall Street firms. The move comes on top of an effort to have the case shifted from state court to federal court, all of which will serve to delay the legal process, said Greg Marose, a spokesman for United Natural.

“Goldman and others intend to brazenly use half-truths as the basis for attempting to deny us the right to our extremely well-qualified counsel of choice,” Marose said. “Goldman’s strategy is clearly to dodge the merits as long as possible.” US Bancorp declined to comment.

Goldman Sachs didn’t respond to a request for comment on the latest filing. Nicole Sharp, a bank spokeswoman, repeated an earlier statement on the lawsuit: “Goldman Sachs believes that these claims are entirely without merit. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these accusations.”

United Natural, based in Providence, Rhode Island, acquired grocery chain Supervalu in October. It accuses the banks of gorging on fees from the deal while exposing it to hedge-fund sharks that stand to reap gains if the firm falters. Goldman Sachs helped structure the transaction, and struck a deal with a group of hedge funds for financing amid choppy markets.

The lawsuit describes the bank’s attempt to tweak terms on about $2 billion of debt to enlist help from the funds and allow them to reap a windfall from credit-default swaps.

“UNFI retained Coburn & Greenbaum to represent the company in its suit against U.S. Bank to proactively mitigate any possible conflict,” Marose said.

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