US firms muscle in on UK rivals’ Barclays-ABN Amro action

No surprises that Allen & Overy (A&O) and Clifford Chance were tapped by ABN Amro and Barclays respectively on the “exploratory discussions” the banks are holding, which could lead to an £80bn mega-merger. See story.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the US firms stealing the magic circle firms’ thunder.

M&A behemoth Sullivan & Cromwell has been cultivating a close relationship with Barclays for a while and is a member of the bank’s US panel. It also managed to have an Enron-related class action against the bank thrown out, as reported today by The Lawyer. See story. So a boon indeed that it also landed a place alongside Clifford Chance’s corporate partner Guy Norman in advising Barclays on the ABN Amro talks.

And The Lawyer hears that ABN Amro is not yet done on instructing counsel, with another firm yet to enter the fray to balance the sides. Although White & Case and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy are both panel firms, the safe money would be on a heavyweight Wall Street firm such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which advised ABN Amro on its purchase of Italian bank Antonveneta. If Cleary is appointed it will be a slap in the face for A&O’s US operation, which the firm has been bigging up in recent months.