It’s official: Freshfields ousted by Linklaters from top level RBS role

Linklaters has sealed its new relationship as preferred PLC-level adviser to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) by closing the bank’s successful acquisition of Churchill. The magic circle firm is now installed as primary board-level adviser to three of the big five UK clearing banks.

As revealed by The Lawyer last week (9 June), the bank’s management had approached several City firms with a view to replacing its traditional PLC-level adviser Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Relations between Freshfields and the board have been strained since the Competition Commission’s review of business banking last year.

The victory is a major coup for Linklaters, which has virtually sewn up the banking sector. The firm is now PLC-level adviser to RBS, Halifax Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB. How it has squared this position with what RBS insiders describe as the board’s extremely tough stance on industry conflicts is unclear.

It has also emerged that, by way of consolation, Freshfields has been retained by RBS as a secondary adviser. Given Linklaters’ potential for conflicts, this is a sensible move on the part of the RBS board. Freshfields narrowly missed out on an appointment to Barclays’ general advisory panel last week.

It is understood that Linklaters has been working on the Churchill deal since the insurer was put up for sale by its parent Credit Suisse Group in March. Linklaters’ RBS relationship partner Robert Elliot led on the deal, despite the fact that he is a banking rather than a corporate lawyer. Churchill’s parent company Winterthur, the insurance arm of Credit Suisse, was represented by Jane Sparkes and Nick Parden of Lovells.