Pepper Hamilton and Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn have called a halt to their merger talks.
The failure of the discussions has thwarted this year's largest US merger. Had they combined, Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton and Washington DC firm Arent Fox would have created a firm with more than 700 lawyers in more than 10 offices. Pepper Hamilton executive partner James Murray said: "We just thought that, ultimately, it wouldn't be a good decision." Murray was reluctant to give reasons for the breakdown of talks. "We're disappointed in the result because we'd been hopeful that this would have been the right combination," he continued. "But we have made the right decision." Murray emphasised that failing to reach accord with Arent Fox had in no way diminished the firm's attitude towards forming links with another firm. He said: "We're still talking to a number of people," adding that the firm was not confining itself to considering only a US merger. When quizzed about a possible transatlantic link-up, Murray said: "We'd be open to considering almost anything." Pepper Hamilton has an established best friends relationship with UK firm McGrigor Donald, but Murray said that it was not an exclusive arrangement. Arent Fox is developing a reputation as something of a tease. The aborted talks with Pepper Hamilton marks another failure to come to a merger agreement. Last year, discussions collapsed with Boston firm Brown Rudnick Freed & Gesmer. Arent Fox managing partner Christopher Smith said: "Part of it's that we're not sure it's a good time for anyone to be doing a merger with the economy the way it is." The partners will meet at a retreat in Pennsylvania to discuss its merger plans.