Camerons trying to make the (investment) grade
CMS Cameron McKenna can be thankful for Danske Bank’s European repositioning, as its December figures were boosted by not one but two hefty deals. National Australia Bank used the firm on its £967m disposal of Northern Bank and National Irish Bank in mid-December, when Danske tapped long-time advisers Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw. But as Danske was buying retail institutions in Ireland, it was also exiting from the UK investment-grade lending market, selling its £1.5bn loan portfolio. For that, it turned to Allen & Overy investment grade king Mike Duncan, while Lloyds TSB used Will Meredith at Camerons.
So if Lloyds TSB is (belatedly) ramping up lending and getting access to no fewer than 110 corporate relationships, could it be the start of something tasty for Camerons? Unfortunately, the forecast isn’t rosy. In buying the Danske portfolio, Lloyds TSB is getting a mixture of participations which won’t necessarily produce much workflow for law firms. If Camerons is relying on Lloyd’s to get it into investment grade lending, it may have to wait some time. But you can be sure new legal head of wholesale and international banking Adrian Miles will be getting some attention.

OFT rounds on mystery firm with big mouth
The competition lawyers’ bush telegraph has been working overtime for the last two weeks with people trying to work out just which law firm was given a serious wrist-slapping by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for revealing confidential pre-merger guidance. The OFT released the information on its website on a no-name basis, but incredibly for such a gossipy bunch nobody has yet been able to work out which law firm it was. All the OFT said in its release was that a firm “had been involved in the inadvertent disclosure of confidential guidance in the context of a due diligence”.

The smart money is on a scenario in which some hapless trainee, tasked with running a data room in a private equity auction, mistakenly included the fact that pre-merger guidance had been sought by one of the bidders.

The OFT took the opportunity to use the saga to warn all firms and investment banks that they can’t go round telling the world they’ve been given pre-merger clearance by the regulator. The OFT has warned it “may, in appropriate circumstances, withdraw from particular organisations their ability to seek confidential guidance in the future”.

Strong stuff, but of course what we really want to know is who got caught with their pants down. If you have any ideas, please call The Lawyer.

No crassness please, we’re French
BNP Paribas concluded its long-running panel review midway through last year, with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Clifford Chance, Gide Loyrette Nouel, Linklaters, Lovells, Norton Rose and White & Case all winners. And to the relief of external lawyers, there was no eBay-style bidding system, no impersonal online tender process and no degrading fee arrangements. BNP Paribas head of legal Jean Louis Guillot instead invited the existing advisers to engage in a good old-fashioned tête-à-tête about fees and service.

One partner said: “We weren’t considered a commodity. They understood that the choice of lawyer is a question of relationships, quality and experience, and not just price.”

Bliss! Royal Bank of Scotland, take note.