The US and the UK legal markets have endured unprecedented turmoil over the past year. Despite this a number of star lawyers have risen to prominence. Here is The Lawyer’s pick of the financial crisis crop
Frank Aquila, Sullivan & Cromwell
It would be easy for Sullivan & Cromwell chairman Rodge Cohen’s incredible year to overshadow the achievements of his partners. But not M&A specialist Frank Aquila. In a year that was low on big-ticket deals, Aquila’s role advising Belgian brewer InBev on its hard-fought $52bn (£34.8bn) hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch stands out.
A Sullivan lifer and partner since 1992, Aquila’s knowhow – gained while working in London – came in handy on this deal, which involved a UK-style ‘certain funds’ financing, suggested by Sullivan partner George Sampas. The success of the transaction in the harsh deals climate is a measure of Aquila’s worth.
Alistair Asher, Allen & Overy
When it comes to this turbulent, rollercoaster ride of a year in the UK financial markets, there are few words that have become as iconic as HBOS.
The struggling mortgage lender is symbolic of wider property and financial markets ravaged with instability. But while most of us were burying our heads in our hands, there was a small elite of lawyers that had the inside track. Alistair Asher was one.
The Allen & Overy (A&O) HBOS relationship partner advised the bank on its takeover by Lloyds TSB, which helped save his client from collapse. As well as being one of the biggest deals of the financial crisis, it marked a turning point for A&O.
Until then, what was notable about the magic circle firm in the crisis was its conspicuous absence from the big countercyclical deals. This changed with Asher’s high-profile role.
Corinne Ball, Jones Day
As a firm, the relentlessly mid-market Jones Day is unlikely to feature in the elite Sweet Sixteen any time soon. But Corinne Ball, co-head of Jones Day’s restructuring practice, easily makes the grade as a financial crisis star.
Ball advised FGIC throughout 2008 and into 2009 on one of the largest and most notable reinsurance transactions ever.
Her team advised the national monoline financial guaranty assurance company on an innovative government bailout-avoiding reinsurance deal worth $166bn (£111.4bn).
The deal saved Ball’s client. The lawyer herself was already busy throwing iconic car manufacturer Chrysler a lifeline.
Adam Bennett, Addleshaw Goddard
In the M&A market at the moment it is nice work if you can get it. And Addleshaw Goddard has certainly been extremely busy working on a raft of building society M&A deals during the financial crisis.
The firm’s down-to-earth financial services partner Adam Bennett has led the way in this respect. Bennett’s top-class contacts have paved the way for his involvement in every merger in the sector since 1999.
In 2008 alone he advised Catholic on its merger with Chelsea, Cheshire and Derbyshire on their mergers with Nationwide, Barnsley on its merger with Yorkshire and Scarborough on its merger with Skipton.
But the fact that his clients have been taken over should not worry Addleshaws too much. Bennett’s team continues to act for more than half of the UK’s building societies in existence.
Martin Bienenstock, Dewey & LeBoeuf
Dewey & LeBoeuf restructuring partner Martin Bienenstock knows how to make an impact. His defection from Weil Gotshal & Manges to Dewey in 2007 stunned Manhattan.
Now Bienenstock is working alongside his former boss, Weil’s Harvey Miller, on the General Motors restructuring.
It is not the first time the pair have bumped into each other on deals since the financial meltdown began. Bienenstock was a vocal presence at the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy hearing in New York, representing his client Royal Bank of Scotland.
Bienenstock made his voice heard in court. Ditto the global legal market.
Cherie Booth QC, Matrix Chambers
Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins partner Patrick Daniels scored a political coup when he instructed Cherie Booth QC to manage the UK end of a US class action against Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
Although Booth had long been a practising member of Matrix Chambers, the instruction was a public declaration of her full-time return to the law after a decade as the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair.
According to Daniels, the firm has an established working relationship with Booth. She was instructed to compile cases for Merseyside and North Yorkshire councils, whose pension funds had a combined value of £4bn but whose deficits deepened significantly thanks to investments made in RBS.
Larry Byrne, Linklaters
Linklaters US co-managing partner Larry Byrne’s role on the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy has been critical for the magic circle firm. In the UK, restructuring head Tony Bugg assembled a team advising PricewaterhouseCoopers as European administrator for Lehman.
In the US, Byrne took control of cementing a transatlantic team, coordinating with Bugg and his UK team on the multitude of issues in the US.
Byrne is no stranger to large-scale international bankruptcy filings. The US litigator has been advising Deutsche Bank on all of its Enron-related disputes
stateside. His international experience has been a Godsend to Linklaters during the complex Lehman’s bankruptcy.
Peter Calamari, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges shocked the international legal market last year by launching its first office outside the US when it snared Richard East from Kirkland & Ellis to launch in London.
The firm’s New York head Peter Calamari was at the heart of the initiative. As the unofficial strategic leader of the London launch, Calamari has been responsible for Quinn Emanuel hiring a number of impressive lawyers, including barrister Sue Prevezer QC.
Calamari’s creativity with opportunistic hires is put to good use on the other side of the Atlantic as well. In March this year he was instrumental in securing Allen & Overy New York senior partner and derivatives guru Dan Cunningham.
At the time, Calamari admitted to The Lawyer that Cunningham’s hire was an experiment. Given Cunningham’s track record and Calamari’s nose for a star hire, it is likely to have good results.
Rodgin Cohen, Sullivan & Cromwell
What is there left to say about Sullivan & Cromwell’s inexhaustible chairman Rodge Cohen?
Now in his final year in the role, Cohen’s contacts, experience and track record not only make him a shoo-in for lawyer of the year but he was also on the short-list earlier this year to become deputy US treasury secretary until he withdrew his name.
Cohen joined Sullivan in 1970, became a partner in 1977 and was elected chairman in July 2000. During the four decades he has been at the firm, the bank regulatory specialist has played pivotal roles for the world’s leading financial institutions in some of the most high-profile and nail-biting deals in US financial market history.
But nothing in his 40 years in the law came close to the past 12 months. We would wish him a happy retirement, but something tells us we have not seen the last of him.
James Eadie QC, Blackstone Chambers
Blackstone Chambers silk James Eadie QC is having a busy year after being appointed First Treasury Counsel.
Eadie became the first-ever silk to be appointed to the position, which is usually given to junior barristers, in January. The role is commonly known
as Treasury Devil. Former Treasury Devils have included such illustrious names as Lord Woolf and Lord Justice Richards.
Eadie joined Jonathan Swift, a barrister at 11KBW, and fellow First Treasury Counsel, as the Government’s first port of call in litigation proceedings. In the current climate, he is likely to be a busy man.
Mitch Eitel, Sullivan & Cromwell
Throughout the financial meltdown, Sullivan & Cromwell has been a formidable force. And although chairman Rodge Cohen has been the star, one partner has been at his side throughout – Mitch Eitel.
Eitel has often been an unsung hero working behind the scenes with Cohen to get critical deals done. Last September he worked with Cohen advising JPMorgan Chase on its acquisition of failed US bank Washington Mutual. Eitel also took a lead role working alongside Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on Citigroup’s equity offerings.
Cohen may have got most of the limelight, but Eitel is a significant force inside the elite New York firm.
Lori Fife, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Weil Gotshal & Manges partner Lori Fife more than held her own during the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy hearing in New York.
Working alongside Weil veteran Harvey Miller, Fife took a lead role in the eight-hour hearing last September, which saw the details of the filing and sale of parts of Lehman to Barclays thrashed out in Manhattan’s bankruptcy court.
A prominent figure throughout the proceedings, Fife played an important role in Miller’s crack team negotiating sale and complex bankruptcy details.
Eric Friedman, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
It’s the dawning of a new era at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Corporate partner Eric Friedman took over as head of the firm last month, replacing executive partner of 15 years Bob Sheehan.
Friedman has his work cut out for him. Leading the largest US law firm through the downturn is not an easy task. But he’s ready for the challenge.
Friedman is committed to developing London and Asia and building on Skadden’s already successful international network. Cautious growth, especially during the current crisis, will be the key for Skadden and for Friedman’s future success. The firm makes few lateral hires and has cut back even more due to the downturn.
Expansion without lateral hiring is a difficult goal. Skadden clearly thinks Friedman is up for the challenge.
David Greene, Edwin Coe
If there is any champion of the consumer to have emerged from the economic slump, it is Edwin Coe partner David Greene. The litigator represented a group of small shareholders in their bid for compensation from the Government over its decision to put Northern Rock into administration. The bid failed but the shareholders now plan to appeal that decision.
Greene is also representing depositors in the Isle of Man branch of failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander and is in the process coordinating litigation for those who lost money in the Madoff scam.
Greene, a driving force within Edwin Coe, is becoming an increasingly influential figure in the financial crisis.
Wachtell lipton rosen & katz
One of the burning questions in Manhattan’s legal community is who will replace veteran Marty Lipton as Wachtell leader when he finally calls it quits? Whoever wins the prize has pretty big boots to fill.
One man pipped to win the race is M&A partner Ed Herlihy. Before the meltdown Herlihy had overwhelming support from his peers. Since then he has racked up an impressive roster of matters, including advising on Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s merger with Citi’s Smith Barney and the US government’s seizure of beleaguered US mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Given the number of mandates he has won recently, Herlihy has more than earned the right to put his name forward to fill Lipton’s size-nines.
Bob JoFFE, Cravath Swaine & moore
Almost as much as Sullivan & Cromwell’s Rodge Cohen has come to personify the past 12 months of economic turmoil, Cravath Swaine & Moore has carved itself out a niche for advising the independent boards of directors on crisis-related matters.
And nobody has done more than former presiding partner Bob Joffe. One after another – more often than not in the affable form of Joffe – Cravath popped up advising on a string of deals featuring names that are now emblematic of the financial crisis: Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, General Motors and Citigroup.
These may not be the plum assignments but, as a way of keeping Cravath at the centre of the action, they are hard to beat.
Brad Karp, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
The new man at the helm of litigation powerhouse Paul Weiss since January this year, Brad Karp appears to be one of those rare lawyers who never sleeps.
The relationship partner for Paul Weiss’s number-one client Citigroup, Karp and his team have handled a string of financial crisis matters for the bank over the year including auction rate securities scandals, subprime-related litigations and the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.
The big one came in October when Paul Weiss partners Ted Wells and John Baughman scored a $2bn (£1.3bn) success for the bank over its alleged role in the Parmalat fraud (Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges was the unlucky loser acting for Parmalat).
Then, earlier this year, it was Karp’s turn to garner a little glory. Together with partner Richard Rosen, Karp secured the dismissal of virtually all claims in a shareholder derivative suit.
All this while running the firm too.
John Marzulli, Shearman & Sterling
When Shearman & Sterling represented Merrill Lynch on its $50bn (£33.5bn) 48-hour sale to Bank of America, John ‘the unflappable’ Marzulli was one of the partners who stepped up to the plate for the bank.
Marzulli is viewed internally at Shearman as an up-and-coming star, responsible for several key client relationships including Dow Chemical.
And he was there again representing Dow in its cycle of deals including the acquisition of Rohm & Haas, again with partner Scott Petepiece, who also featured on the Merrill deals.
One to watch.
Lee Meyerson, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Lee Meyerson has undoubtedly been the star of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett throughout the downturn. A partner in the corporate and capital markets team at the New York elite firm, Meyerson has personified Simpson Thacher’s track record during the crisis, scoring instructions on a succession of financial meltdown deals.
Snaring a role on the Citigroup stock deal in February this year is arguably small beer when compared with Meyerson’s role last year advising the US Treasury on its $700bn (£625bn) financial markets bailout.
Certainly the Simpson partner’s bull run of matters has secured his place on the credit crisis map.
Harvey Miller, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Veteran bankruptcy star Harvey Miller returned to Weil in 2007 after leaving in 2002 just in time to take on the show-stopping instruction of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.
Miller has been the force behind this historic mandate. But, while working on Lehman, Miller has also taken on the fiendishly complex job of restructuring General Motors, a deal that will reshape the US automotive industry.
These days, if it is restructuring, it is usually Miller.
Jeremy Parr, Linklaters
Linklaters corporate rainmaker Jeremy Parr is not acting on the firm’s biggest instruction of the decade: the administration of Lehman Brothers.
But he wins a place on this list because of his work on some of the most high-profile banking mergers on both sides of the Atlantic.
As Lloyds TSB relationship partner, he played a leading role in the controversial rescue takeover of HBOS. It was a deal that could never have happened in less turbulent times and one that changed the face of the UK banking sector.
Michael Raffan, Freshfields Bruckhaus DHis services were required again when Lloyds TSB was forced to make the most of the Government’s bailout scheme.
Parr also provided UK advice for Merrill Lynch, which was taken over by Bank of America in similar circumstances to Lloyds TSB/HBOS.
The Linklaters partner cut his teeth helping Natwest see off the £26bn hostile bids by RBS and Bank of Scotland in 2001. It is perhaps no surprise then that he should return to the banking mega-merger now.
Michael Raffan, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
He might eschew the limelight, but Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Michael Raffan has been thrust into centre stage in the current crisis.
The Freshfields head of financial institutions has been main adviser to the Bank of England throughout. This includes guiding the Old Lady through the nationalisation of Bradford & Bingley, a job so massive it took 40 Freshfields lawyers to complete.
Raffan was also there on the Government’s asset protection scheme and, a few months ago, advising on the use of new powers to take control of Dunfermline Building Society to prevent its collapse.
Of course, it helps if one of your mates is chief legal adviser to the Bank of England. (Former Freshfields M&A partner Graham Nicholson was appointed at the end of last year.)
Nonetheless, Raffan’s rise to prominence has been remarkably swift. As recently as 1992 he was a Freshfields trainee. He was seconded to the Financial Services Authority before making partner in 2001.
Eight years later, and he’s doing rather well, isn’t he?
Charles Randell, Slaughter and May
Charles Randell has emerged as the key man behind Slaughter and May’s lucrative relationship with the UK Government.
Whenever the state needs to splurge cash on the ailing banking system, Randell gets the call.
He led the Slaughters team acting on the nationalisation of Northern Rock and advised the Government on its historic £37bn bailout of the UK banking system, as well as the various other bank rescues undertaken since then.
Randell was also called in when the Treasury controversially froze the UK assets of collapsed Icelandic banks using anti-terror laws.
Being relationship partner to the state during such an intense crisis requires a cool head, and Randell certainly offers that alongside the technical skills you would expect from a Slaughters lawyer.
The result for Slaughters has been a cool £22m in fees from the Government since the start of the credit crunch.
Andy Levander, Dechert
Seth Zachary, Paul HastingsChairman Bart Winokur has rightly taken the plaudits for Dechert’s phenomenal success in recent years, but when it comes to examples of partners winning high-profile instructions, they do not come much more acclaimed than Andy Levander.
In the maelstrom of investigations and litigation arising out of the world financial crisis, Levander was retained by such high-profile clients as Lehman’s outside directors and John Thain, former chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch.
In addition, Dechert played a leading role representing a number of intermediary funds and investment managers in the Madoff scandal, notably Ezra Merkin. His lawyer? Levander.
Seth Zachary, Paul Hastings
Paul Hastings’ chairman Seth Zachary makes it into this list less on the basis of financial crisis deals done and more for his gimlet-eyed sense of timing.
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft should, on paper, have been one of the big winners of the credit crisis. True, it won a role last month on the Chrysler Chapter 11 proceedings and picked up one of the few big-ticket mergers and acquisitions deals of the year, Pfizer’s $68bn (£45.6bn) takeover of rival Wyeth.
But Cadwalader’s experience of the financial crisis will be remembered for mass layoffs, plummeting profits and, in London at least, the walkout of the majority of its City partners.
And the reason why Paul Hastings has been transformed into such an attractive — and profitable — destination? Seth Zachary.