Clifford Chance has upped the stakes in the highly charged situation surrounding the quadruple exit of its funds team by threatening to take action against some of the group for breach of fiduciary duty.
The four partners – funds specialists Ed Gander, Nick Benson, Nigel Clark and tax partner Jonathan Kandel – resigned on 7 June, leaving just one partner, Nigel Hatfield, in Clifford Chance’s London funds group.
Clifford Chance and Weil Gotshal & Manges declined to comment on the threat to sue, but sources close to the situation confirmed that such a course of action was one of several being considered by the magic circle firm. One said: “No avenues are being closed off.”
One City funds partner commented: “They’re going to be really worried about solicitations.”
In practice, Clifford Chance is expected to hold Gander and Benson to a strict six-month notice period without gardening leave, as it did with previous funds head Jason Glover before he joined Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in January this year.
Gander, who replaced Glover as head of the group in June 2010, is currently working on a major fundraising for Apax Partners, while Benson has been the number two partner on both Apax and the BC Partners relationship.
The funds group is one of the most profitable parts of the firm’s corporate practice, generating a revenue of around £20m.
It is understood that Gander’s brother, Richard Gander of City headhunters Dixon Gander, has been given the mandate for recruiting further members for the Weil team.
For in-depth analysis of the Clifford Chance funds practice and the Weil Gotshal acquisition, see feature.