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Lockstep comes under fire as two star partners quit for Latham & Watkins
A Simmons & Simmons task force is making a dramatic bid to overhaul the firm's partner remuneration system following a profits dive in the last financial year. A key focus of the review, led by senior partner Janet Gaymer, is the 20 per cent merit element in Simmons' modified lockstep, which was introduced four years ago. Sources close to the firm said proposals had been made to move away from the points-based merit element in favour of a more flexible approach, allowing discretionary payments to partners for outstanding performance. The initiative follows a slump in profits at Simmons in the last financial year by nearly 9 per cent to £375,000 per equity partner. London head of corporate Ken Woffenden told The Lawyer: "We've looked and are continuing to look at whether the performance-related elements within the system can be further modified," he said. News of the review coincides with the departure of head of corporate recovery John Houghton and corporate partner and co-head of private equity Charles Fuller to the London office of Latham & Watkins. Simmons' insolvency business and fledgling private equity practice are looking vulnerable after the decision of two high-profile partners to quit. The pair recently worked on the KPMG Consulting deal, but entered negotiations with Latham independently and only learnt of each other's plans in the latter stages. Fuller has been integral to Simmons' recent international advances, working on both the Nolst Trenite merger and the firm's new joint venture with Tokyo practice TMI Associates. But Latham's private equity strength proved too strong a pull. Fuller has been developing a private equity practice with a US slant over the last two years at Simmons. His private equity clients include Spectrum Equity Investors and Nokia Ventures. Latham has also acted for Spectrum and counts key US players Carlisle and KKR as key clients. Houghton's recent high-profile work includes acting for the bondholders in the multibillion-pound restructuring of Deutsche Telekom's cable business. It is understood that this work will move with him to Latham.