The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has slashed the number of firms it instructs for its specialised country legal advice from over 100 to just eight.
Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Coudert Brothers are among the 52 firms from the UK and abroad that are understood to have had their bid to join the panel rejected.
The winners include Freshfields, Cameron McKenna, Linklaters and Lovell White. They are thought to have faced pressure to reduce fees.
The EBRD plans to invest up to Ecu2.8bn next year through 90-130 transactions. The panel will provide advice on natural resources, telecommunications, transport infrastructure, power and municipal finance.
The EBRD will continue to instruct non-panel firms on its treasury transactions. Gilles Thieffry, head of capital markets at Norton Rose, said he had completed 30-40 such transactions for the bank this year.
Previously, the bank chose its counsel for specialised advice for the 26 countries it operates in on a deal-by-deal basis. Emmanuel Maurice, acting general counsel, said the panel's purpose was to simplify the selection process. "We wanted to establish preferred relationships with firms which would bring about quality and productivity gains," he said.
Wayne McArdle, former chief counsel at the EBRD and now at the London office of US firm Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, said the panel would make the procurement process more efficient, but added that he would have preferred to see the work going to more firms.
EBRD Panel: the eight survivors
1. Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober with Le Boeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae