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Ernst & Young's US ally McKee Nelson has marched into New York with a succession of high-profile lateral hires
The firm began its offensive by poaching three Stroock Stroock & Lavan securitisation partners. It followed this move by taking three partners from Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, boosting its burgeoning structured finance capability. Reed Auerbach, Robert Wipperman and Matthew Joseph have left Stroock and signed up with McKee Nelson. Auerbach and Wipperman have a significant underwriting practice. They will direct the infant New York office with Auerbach as managing partner and Wipperman heading the asset securitisation practice. Auerbach said: "Only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a global finance practice, anchored by an existing global professional services network, could have tempted us to leave our friends and former partners." The partners deserting Sidley are Thomas Amico, Michael Braun and Gail Watson. The latter said: "While it was a very hard decision for all of us to leave Sidley, we feel strongly that McKee Nelson, together with its ally Ernst & Young, has a unique global vision for the capital markets industry that will ultimately benefit our clients in ways that no other firm can match." Sidley has previously been on the receiving end of the poaching power of McKee Nelson. Last year Sidley lost a 12-lawyer structured finance team, including five partners, to McKee Nelson's Washington office. Washington-based McKee Nelson was set up in 1999 as the first US law firm allied with a major accountancy firm. Co-founder William Nelson said that it had always been the firm's plan to open in New York. Nelson argued that to offer a credible capital markets capability, a firm had to have a base in New York. To move into New York the firm had to drop the Ernst & Young part of its original name, McKee Nelson Ernst & Young, because the state does not allow law firms to practise under trade names. While accountancy rivals have targeted Europe to grow their legal arms, Ernst & Young has focused on the US. McKee Nelson concentrates on structured finance and tax work. Its New York office will be located in the same building as Ernst & Young.