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City banking lawyers were working around the clock to advise worried institutions after the collapse of Barings, London's oldest merchant banking group, which crashed after losing more than u700 million on derivatives contracts.
Literally hundreds of City clients were clamouring for legal advice at every top law firm following the failure by the Bank of England to organise a successful rescue with other banks.
Bill Tudor John, senior partner and head of the banking department at Allen & Overy, says: "I should think that over the [first] weekend most of the people in the City were involved with Barings. We had around half a dozen partners in the City. Today we probably have considerably more who are responding to requests from many clients who have exposure."
More than 100 clients had called Allen & Overy by mid-afternoon of last Monday. Many of these were worried clients involved with Barings, while other calls came in from potential purchasers.
Denton Hall's experience was similar. Head of banking Anthony Bonsor says: "The phones have been going non-stop. All banks with some sort of exposure are asking what they can do about it."
The exposure of many banks comes from their lending to Barings on the inter-bank market. "We are getting calls from banks who are due to make advances," says Bonsor.
Slaughter and May, appointed last Monday as lawyers to administrators Ernst & Young, have a long track record with Barings. It is understood that Slaughters was acting directly for the bank immediately prior to the appointment, and had a dozen partners in the Barings offices over the weekend to advise on matters in the final hours of the bank's independence, while hopes for a rescue were still alive.
Despite final losses being uncertain early last week, lawyers said that the long-term effects of Baring's failure would be slight because of its comparatively small size in the market.