DWF, Irwin Mitchell and Shoosmiths shortlisted by Lloyds to take on litigation unit as retail GC quits

DWF, Irwin Mitchell and Shoosmiths are on the shortlist to take over Lloyds’ retail and asset finance litigation teams, The Lawyer understands. 

The shortlist comes to light days after the general counsel of retail and wealth Stuart Morgan, the lawyer driving the project forward, resigned from the banking giant. 

Staff were told about his move on Friday (25 April), though sources say his exit is unlikely to change what is internally known as Project Canberra – the bank’s decision to outsource its retail and asset finance litigation teams to a panel firm. 

Irwin Mitchell, which posted revenues of £200.2m last year, is thought to be leading the pack after panel firms were invited to pitch for the tender last summer (29 July 2013). The firms, initially understood to include Eversheds, DWF and Irwin Mitchell, had been given two weeks to respond.

However the process was put on hold after it became public, with the bank putting the project on ice until November (11 November 2013).

If a deal with one of the shortlisted firms goes ahead, the chosen firm is likely to take on the group of 70, although Lloyds declined to confirm this. The retail and asset finance litigation teams are spread across five different offices, including Hove, Chester and Edinburgh, and total around 70 staff. 

A final decision is still thought to be some months off, though the three firms shortlisted are understood to have been told that they are the front-runners. None of the firms commented when contacted by The Lawyer.

Morgan is not leaving for a legal position at another bank, despite having spent seven years at Morgan Stanley prior to joining Lloyds. One insider said he is joining a manufacturing company. 

The former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lawyer joined Lloyds in 2007, having previously been Morgan Stanley’s deputy head of European and Asian litigation and its director of law and compliance. 

The move follows on from the exit of Lloyds’ head of legal for channels and intermediaries within the retail and wealth division, Sian McIntyre, who left for Barclays in January (15 January 2014).

There have been a series of senior legal management moves at Lloyds in recent months. Corporate and M&A head Hugh Pugsley was made general counsel for group legal in September (16 September 2013), succeeding former group legal GC Kate Cheetham after she was promoted to deputy general counsel earlier that year. 

In the same month UBS Wealth’s disputes chief Philippa Simmons was brought in to replace former disputes head Aamir Khan as head of legal disputes and contentious regulation (11 September 2013).

It is not known who is going to take over Morgan’s role, a position which involves managing a team of around 150. He is also a member of the bank’s retail bank board, products board, retail risk committee and group risk management committee. 

Lloyds was unable to comment at the time of writing.