In through the out door

Shearman influence spreads as lawyer becomes GC at client Citigroup

It is hardly normal for a firm to put an announcement on its own website about a partner leaving.

But then Shearman & Sterling senior partner Rohan Weerasinghe’s departure to join Citigroup – first reported by TheLawyer.com on Tuesday (3 April) – was no ordinary move.

Weerasinghe, who will take over from Michael Helfer as the global bank’s general counsel and corporate secretary on 1 June, is far from a stranger to the company he is set to join.

Citigroup is one of the US firm’s top clients, with the corporate and securities lawyer a key partner on the account. He has been a friend of Citi CEO Vikram Pandit for a good 30 years, although in truth Weerasinghe is seen as more the Merrill Lynch figure at Shearman.

It was veteran partner Stephen Volk who was perceived to be the bank’s go-to Citi guy while he was at the firm. Volk, Shearman’s senior partner throughout the 1990s, also made the move to Citi, joining the bank in 2004 after a three-year stint at Credit Suisse First Boston.

Shearman London managing partner Nick Buckworth was insistent that Weerasinghe’s move would bolster ties with Citi.

“They’re a very important client for us,” he commented. “Despite being sad [that he’s leaving], it’s an important way of maintaining that relationship.”

Superficially at least, it looks like a sensational move for the US firm, which has planted another of its own men at the heart of a massive client without having to give him a share of profit. No wonder the firm was keen to get the news out.