Law firms get great value at the Co-op

Advisers get stuck into the disentangling task, to unhitch troubled bank from group

‘Here for you for life’ reads the Co-op’s slogan. It probably doesn’t feel quite that way for its legal advisers at the moment.

As the Co-op Group and the Co-op Bank continue their elaborate £1.5bn disentangling effort, details are emerging of the firms involved and their roles. 

Allen & Overy has, of course, hogged the limelight. As the group’s most trusted adviser the firm has seen its work for the banking side shaved due to conflicts.

To plug the gap the Co-op asked longstanding adviser Addleshaw Goddard to take on additional work for the bank. The firm declined due to its relationship with the group.

Luckily, its second port of call, Clifford Chance, snapped up the offer. A team led by capital markets partner Iain Hunter was instructed to advise on the shareholder relationship agreement between bank and group, but has since seen its role extended.

The whole foray has been a baptism of fire for Co-op group general counsel Alistair Asher, who only took up the post in July. 

“It took a long time for them to engage with advisers,” says a source close to the restructure. “The group was hoping to railroad the deal through. It would’ve been better if the bank had had independent lawyers from the start.”

Hopefully, with a shiny new (as yet unnamed) general counsel and an independent board committee the bank will emerge from the break-up in fine fettle.

With fresh-faced GCs at the helm of both units, we suspect these are just the first of many more changes at the Co-op.