Sidley wins over Paragon to score place on finance panel

Sidley Austin

Brown & Wood has scooped a place on the panel of Paragon Group and has advised the specialist mortgage lender on its first securitisation to tap the US capital markets.

The securitisation is the largest yet for Solihull-based Paragon, which has now raised £8.3bn in 41 transactions.

A team led by partners Robert Torch and Jenifer Williams won a beauty parade against three other firms to advise on the financing totalling $1.2bn (£723m), backed by prime buy-to-let mortgages.

Paragon declined to comment on who else pitched, but one obvious contender is Slaughter and May, Paragon’s main corporate adviser and the firm which advised on the company’s previous securitisation. Rival US firm Weil Gotshal is another likely candidate.

Sidley has JPMorgan to thank for its invitation to pitch for the work. The investment bank recommended Sidley to Paragon on the back of its work, including the Northern Rock/Granite master trust residential mortgage-backed securitisation (RMBS) programme. Torch and Williams have just closed Northern Rock’s seventh securitisation using its master trust, in which JPMorgan was a joint lead manager.

Paragon adds to an impressive niche carved out by Sidley’s London structured finance and securitisation team. As well as Northern Rock, it was involved in Standard Life’s initial RMBS deal in May and is the underwriters’ counsel on the Halifax/Permanent Financing master trust RMBS programme.

US-qualified Torch commented: “When originators decide to go into the US market – and more of them are doing so – it helps to have a strong US capability.”

Paragon’s director of treasury and structured finance Adem Mehmet said JPMorgan’s recommendation was encouraging, while in the tender, Sidley’s approach to deal management won him over. Sidley posted all documents online and updated the offering circular on the system until the last moment. “It was almost an adventure,” said Mehmet. “Certainly there were no delays in the final stages.”

Mehmet prefers to use a variety of advisers. “We’re trying to get a number of firms up to speed… we don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket,” he said. “Sidley will certainly be included on the panel of firms that we will consider for deals going forward.”

Clifford Chance advised the banks – the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays – on the deal.