THE TWO major US firms believed to be involved in merger talks have issued conflicting statements about the future of the deal.
Coudert Brothers and New York's Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon have for some time been rumoured to be discussing the possibility of linking up.
However, while Coudert partners have received a memorandum from the chair of their executive committee, Tony Williams, saying the talks have ended, Mudge Rose maintains the door remains open.
But both firms are agreed in their denial of a recent report in America's National Law Journal which claimed a deal was struck in April.
Mudge Rose executive partner Donald Zoeller says that the report is "just flat wrong".
Nonetheless, he says that
although discussions with Couderts are currently "sort of quiet", it is possible talks will resume.
In London, Couderts administrative partner Steven Beharrell says the talks were merely exploratory, and similar conversations have taken place with other firms. "All discussions with Mudge Rose have been suspended," says Beharrell.
"There have been discussions but they have been discontinued."
"One can never rule things out, but I see no likelihood of Coudert Brothers merging with anyone."
Both Couderts and Mudge Rose have recently come through a difficult period with a number of partners departing from the firms during the past year.
But lawyers say a combination of the two could provide new strength to both firms, giving Couderts a wider domestic base and creating a greater international platform for Mudge Rose.
"We have a very solid domestic group and we have a fair amount of activity in international-type matters, but we have only two offices outside of the US," says Zoeller. "What interested us was their international network."
"We've had talks, but where they will head we have no idea."
He adds: "I think the last time we actually sat down together was a few weeks ago, but something as large as a merger of this kind will typically have an on/off pace.
"With something as big as a projected Coudert Brothers/
Mudge Rose merger, until you are very far into it the chances of it not being consummated are much bigger than the chances of it being consummated.
"If you were to characterise its chances, I'd say there's a long way to go to see if anything will happen."