HSBC Holdings is demanding a single worldwide rate from firms seeking a place on the bank’s global panel.
The bank has told firms that if they win a place on the coveted panel they will automatically qualify to pitch for work outside the UK. It is understood that in return firms must include a common price for all work, regardless of the region in which the work will be undertaken.
The move towards harmonised rates by the UK clearing banks was highlighted in the summer of 2003, when Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) decided to introduce uniform billing. In the case of RBS, the bank set just one fee rate for its own account work (where the bank itself pays the legal bill) as well as for deals where the lawyer’s bill is passed to the client.
As first revealed by The Lawyer (16 August), HSBC group general manager for legal and compliance Richard Bennett launched a full-scale review of the bank’s global and UK regional panels. As part of the process, Bennett is now also reviewing the bank’s panels in other jurisdictions.
It is understood that firms have been given the option to either pitch for a place on one of the panels designated by jurisdiction, or on the global panel. Firms seeking a place on the global panel had to outline their experience in each geographic region.
Although a place on a regional panel will only enable firms to advise HSBC in specific countries, it is understood that they will have greater freedom on charge-out rates.
The firms on HSBC’s existing global panel are Allen & Overy, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Nabarro Nathanson, Norton Rose and Stephenson Harwood. It is understood that HSBC has invited firms on the existing panel, as well as several firms that have not historically acted for the bank, to tender.
HSBC declined to comment.