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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has delayed the appointment of Eversheds' Moscow office following a dispute over consultancy services.
Eversheds joined a consortium including accountancy firm Arthur Andersen to bid for the contract, which involves advising the EBRD on Urals and West Siberian venture funds.
The EBRD held a beauty parade for a consortium made up of a law firm, an accountancy firm and an environmental consultant. There was also an option to include a management consultancy.
Eversheds was tipped to win the work after beating off bids from consortia which included Baker & McKenzie, Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn, Hogan & Hartson, and PricewaterhouseCoopers CIS.
But on 24 November the head of the consortium, who is from Arthur Andersen, visited the EBRD to finalise the contract but the signing was delayed.
It is believed that the EBRD has concerns over whether the consultancy services offered by Arthur Andersen cover the entire range of skills required.
An insider says: "The consortium stands or falls as one. It would be very disappointing if it tripped up at this stage."
Last year, Eversheds was one of more than 100 firms cut from the EBRD law firm panel, which was reduced to eight legal advisers (The Lawyer, 24 November 1998). The firm would be appointed on an ad hoc basis for this project.
The Eversheds team is believed to include Moscow-based lawyer James Kitcatt and Elena Agranovskaya, head of associated law firm ALM Consulting.
An EBRD spokeswoman says no official decision has yet been made but Eversheds is confident of a favourable outcome which will bring in a steady stream of work at a time when rival firms are struggling in Moscow.
Mayer Brown & Platt worked with Ernst & Young on a single bid for the Urals work only but has since closed its Moscow office.