Hello and welcome to the first edition of the Fides Weekly Update in 2019! Take a look at what’s happening in your industry this week, and don’t forget to scroll down to our regular feature – Movers & Shakers of the week.
1. Another PE heavyweight departure for Freshfields – could this mean an end to the practice’s market-leading title?
Wednesday marked the announcement of Adrian Maguire’s departure from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s shrinking private equity practice.
Joining the ranks of Kirkland & Ellis, whose recruitment efforts over the last 12 months in London have been nothing short of impressive, Maguire reunites with former Freshfields partner David Higgins.
The duo’s new residence within a US practice could mark a significant shift in the perceived status of private equity practices in the City. Where Freshfields was formerly known across the market as resounding leader for PE work, there is now much more of a question mark over the magic circle’s dominance over such big-ticket deals.
Maguire worked for a number of Freshfields’ core client base in this space, including Cinven, Warburg Pincus, Carlyle and CVC, and his reunion with former Freshfields heavyweight David Higgins could sway these clients over to Kirkland’s books.
Having experienced a number of high-profile departures in recent months, Freshfields’ lockstep changes have come under heavy scrutiny, questioning whether their attempts to retain star talent has in fact caused many of their key partners to depart the magic circle firm. Notable leavers from the firm have included corporate and capital markets partner Ashar Qureshi to Fried Frank, high-yield partner Ward McKimm to Shearman & Sterling, and litigation partner Reza Mohtashami QC to litigation boutique Three Crowns.
Freshfields voted in a first and second-tier lockstep system in June last year and widened the range of core equity points. It was estimated around 60-100 partners were affected by the changes and asked to accept a lower profit share.
Meanwhile, Kirkland are going from strength to strength, overtaking Latham & Watkins as the world’s largest law firm by revenue last year, taking in $3.165bn. The firm had a record-breaking partner promotions round last year, in line with its global push in lateral hiring.
2. Compliance failings lead to full blown investigation at Canadian bank RBC
The Financial Times (FT) has reported that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will be launching an official investigation into potential unfair dismissals at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) following a brief probe into the bank last summer.
Questions were raised after the dismissal of former London head of emerging markets currency trading John Banerjee. The bank claimed they sacked Banerjee due to his ‘poor timekeeping’, however, a judge at the employment tribunal argued that this was “empty words” and the real reason they removed him from the bank was due to his complaints surrounding the bank’s compliance procedures.
Banerjee claimed that RBC’s culture around compliance was best described as a “box-ticking” exercise, where staff complete checks remarkably quickly, particularly given the checks are full of broken links and mistakes, arguing that many employees choose to ignore the long, dull read and just click “Agree”.
Confirming his dismissal as unfair is a rare win for a whistleblowers, as an FT report states that “lawyers say only about 4 per cent of whistleblowers win employment cases.”
This case shone a light on the working culture at RBC in London with a number of former employees now emerging and stating unfair reasons for their dismissals after highlighting legal and compliance issues.
The FCA has been criticised previously for its lacklustre efforts in defending the treatment of whistleblowers, which may be sparking its more assertive nature in this investigation. The watchdog is also looking into the broader handling of complaints and the processes used to dismiss staff.
Movers & Shakers of the week
Yunis was a lateral hire from Taylor Wessing, who joined in 2016 to develop the firm’s healthcare practice. Vergunst continues with the firm and will return to practicing law as well as remaining on the firm’s management and compensation committees.
Lewis was previously UK head of derivatives and structured products and has been a partner with the firm since 2006. In his new role he will sit on the firm’s 12-member executive committee with his term formally beginning on 1 May this year.
After a 27-year term of service, Greg Palm has retired but stays on in an advisory capacity with Karen Seymour taking over sole responsibility following a short period of co-leading the team alongside Palm.
Seymour is a former Sullivan & Cromwell Partner who joined the bank in December 2017.
John O’Donovan has been appointed by A&O as their CTO following time spent at TalkTalk where he was the company’s senior architect, with beforehand holding a variety of technical roles with Dow Jones, the Financial Times, and the BBC. O’Donovan replaced outgoing CTO Ian Storer who has moved onto UBS as their CTO for their legal team.
Bakers continue in their efforts to grow their transactional capability in London following London Managing Partner, Alex Chadwick’s stated aim to grow this area of the firm by 30% by 2020.
Maguire, who has been with the firm his entire career was made partner in 2008 and has been a part of spearheading one of the preeminent private equity teams in the City and joins Kirkland’s growing city presence.
Hopkin’s practice in open ended and close ended investment funds, both onshore and offshore with a focus on institutional investors.
Quinn makes its long-awaited play for a City based patent litigator with the hire of Alexandrine Ananou from Bird & Bird.
King & Spalding have benefitted from the third partner to leave White & Case in 2019 with real estate focussed David Cox joining the firms CFI practice.
Cooley’s makes its first City lateral in close to a year with a hire from Hogan Lovells in an attempt to further strengthen their IP credentials.
Sidley has redeveloped the restructuring practice following the departures last summer with the appointment of Pillarstone GC and former Kirkland partner Mark Knight into the firm’s City office.
KPMG have brought across Angela Savin from Norton Rose Fulbright to strengthen disputes credibility in London.
Clifford Chance adds greater advisory capability into its client offering with the appointment of Steven Mastrovich into its New York office.
DLA Piper hires Real Estate partner Lorraine Reader following DWF’s much talked about IPO failed to go through last summer.
Mergers & Alliances
Office Openings & Closings
Legal Technology & Innovation
Inclusion & diversity
This year’s black and ethnic minority applicants who took silk numbered 13 which marks the first fall in numbers in recent years following a record 18 last year.