UK law firms snubbed by German financial giants

Financial giants Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank have chosen independent German firms to advise on their merger rather than UK-based firms with German links.

Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Laber, Germany's largest firm, is acting for Deutsche Bank, while Stuttgart-based Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch Rechtsanwalte is representing Dresdner Bank.

The merger will create the world's largest financial company – with £750bn of assets – and pundits claim it will set off a wave of consolidation of European banks.

Deutsche Bank says that national firms have the edge over their UK counterparts in this sort of deal because of their expertise in German law.

Reinhard Marsch-Barner, a senior counsel at Deutsche Bank, says: “A firm such as Bruckhaus is more specialised in German company law.”

M&A partners Ralph Wollburg and Christian Gehling are leading the Bruckhaus team, but they refuse to comment.

Marsch-Barner says: “Wollburg has much M&A experience in Germany. If there is a national merger it is wiser to go to purely national firms. It would not make much sense to go to a UK-based firm.”

Since the mergers of Clifford Chance with Punder Volhard Weber & Axster and Freshfields with Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund this year there has been speculation over whether international legal practices will break the hold that German rivals have over the domestic market (The Lawyer, 28 February).

But a lawyer at one of the firms handling the case says the domestic instructions on this deal prove that UK-based firms will not be first choice for German companies, no matter what their size.