Former Freshfields funds star moves to Debevoise

US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has scooped the head of investment funds from its one-time magic circle suitor Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Anthony McWhirter was one of Freshfields’ key older partners. He retired from Freshfields’ equity partnership last year to become a principal consultant at the firm in order to take advantage of the old pension that was being reformed. He will join Debevoise’s London office as a partner.

Debevoise operates an all-equity partnership in which partners take home on average $1.8m (£880,000) a year.

McWhirter founded Freshfields’ funds practice and was a partner at the firm for more than 20 years before retiring last year. The salaried position of consultancy was a means for high-performing older partners to stay at Freshfields for an additional six months to a year, and collect their unreformed pension.

McWhirter was also named during the hearing of former insolvency partner Peter Bloxham, who has brought a £4.5m age discrimination claim against the firm in light of its pension reforms, which replaced the unfunded Schedule II with the less generous index-linked Schedule IIa pension. Unlike McWhirter, Bloxham did not stay on at the firm as a consultant.

In his witness statement, Bloxham said that McWhirter had raised concerns about the unfair discrepancy of treatment between 55-year-olds and 54-year-olds prior to the pension reforms. It is this perceived unfairness that Bloxham’s claim balances upon.

Debevoise’s European co-head of investment funds Marwan Al-Turki said of McWhirter’s arrival: “His understanding of the wide and complex range of legal issues in this area, underscored by a strong background in fund-related taxation issues, will add further strength and depth to our European funds practice”

Debevoise now has 17 partners in its London office, which accounts for just over 10 per cent of firmwide turnover. Freshfields also held exploratory talks with Debevoise in 2000 with a view to certain practice areas – particularly securities – working in a joint venture-style arrangement.