CC works on French govt sale of Crédit Lyonnais

Clifford Chance corporate partner Dominique Bompoint is advising the French government and its financial adviser Merril Lynch on the sale of a state-owned stake in Crédit Lyonnais. In a highly unusual move, the firm is not using Chinese walls to protect client confidentiality.

Paris-based Bompoint was instructed by Merrill Lynch in the first half of 2001, after the bank successfully pitched to act as financial adviser to the French Finance Ministry.

The finance ministry has not instructed its own lawyers and is piggybacking on the advice given to Merrill Lynch. Bompoint said this was possible because both parties shared the same interests and said that they had consented to the arrangement.

Bompoint said there were no special arrangements relating to fees, except that Clifford Chance would not be charging the finance ministry directly for legal advice. Instead, Merrill Lynch is going to assume the liability and in return will add a premium to its fees.

The deal, which involved an auction process lasting less than two days, is believed to be the fastest privatisation auction in French history.

Bompoint’s team included public law partner David Preat. Paribas is being advised by in-house lawyer Jean-Louis Guillot.

The Paribas bid must be approved by the Comité des Établissements de Crédit et des Entreprises d’Investissement, the French regulatory body for banks and more generally financial services providers. The parties expect a decision within three months.