Has Wachtell’s super-lawyer stretched himself too thin?
Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz founding partner Marty Lipton’s ‘super-lawyer’ reputation appears to have led him into trouble during the recent furore over the ousting of Morgan Stanley CEO Philip Purcell.
Lipton, who is renowned for his ability to don many hats, advised the board on governance, the company on issues including severance pay to departing executives, and Purcell himself during the leadership battle. But this one-stop shop approach appears to have backfired, with many questioning the quality of advice in the face of an apparent conflict of interest.
This debate is only fuelled further by Wachtell compensation specialist Adam Chinn’s involvement in the drafting of the controversial $113m (£65m) severance package awarded to Purcell, which has caused shareholders to sue the Morgan Stanley board.
While legal ethics experts agree that Lipton’s many roles were not in conflict as long as he upheld his responsibility to offer each client the best advice he could, the jury is still out over the autonomy of that advice.
TLT sweeps surprise Somerfield instruction
Bristol-based TLT isn’t a name that one would typically associate with competition law. So it came as a bit of a surprise that the firm won the mandate to advise Somerfield in connection with the high-profile merger reference to the Competition Commission.
Partner and competition specialist Bill Hull is leading the team advising the UK’s fifth largest supermarket group. Somerfield last week said that it had not given up the hope of keeping all 115 stores it bought from Morrisons last year for £260m, in spite of a provisional ruling by the commission that it must sell 14 of them. According to reports, Somerfield is planning on writing to the commission and making representations at a court hearing later this month.
TLT won Somerfield as a new client last December when Perran Jervis and his team joined the firm from Bristol-based Laytons. How refreshing that a firm of just 19 equity partners is competing with Freshfields and Slaughters for the cream of European competition work.
US firms seek London office-shares
Several US law firms are looking to ramp up their UK presence by implementing aggressive recruitment strategies at the same time as taking on expanded office space.
Baker Botts, Bingham McCutchen, Hunton & Will-iams, Kirkland & Ellis and Orrick are all at varying stages of discussions regarding new premises.
Bingham McCutchen and Baker Botts look likely to become neighbours. Baker signed up for 21,300sq ft and Bingham has 31,800sq ft under offer at 41 Lothbury next to the Bank of England.
Hunton & Williams and Kirkland & Ellis could similarly be sharing the view at 30 Saint Mary Axe, with Hunton signing up for 24,000sq ft. Kirkland has 33,000sq ft under offer.
Covington & Burling and Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft also got a new landlord on the Strand (see page four). But will any of these firms ever grow up to get a room of their own?