EBRD threatens to drop its nine-firm legal panel

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering dumping its legal panel – depriving its firms of millions of pounds worth of fees.

The bank’s nine-firm panel was put in place two years ago and is due to be reviewed at the end of this month, when it will decide whether the line-up will be extended, reorganised or abandoned altogether.

EBRD’s advisers include German-based Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber, US firm LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae, CMS Cameron McKenna, Freshfields, Linklaters & Alliance, Lovells, White & Case, Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn and Canadian firm McCarthy Tétrault.

It is understood that White & Case, Salans and Linklaters carry out the lion’s share of the specialised banking work.

One panel-member lawyer says the three each earn as much as £2m per year in legal fees from the bank.

As part of the selection process, firms were required to agree fixed hourly fees with the EBRD.

Chief counsel at the bank Bill Rubin (soon to leave the bank, see below) says the panel’s future will be decided at the end of June. If necessary, a new tendering process will start.

He says: “It is unlikely that the existing panel will simply be extended – [the review] could range from doing a new tender for a new panel of firms to just scrapping the panel completely. We could just go back to instructing firms on an ad hoc basis as we were doing before.”

The bank is also considering whether to introduce a panel structure to outsource treasury work.

Russia-based White & Case banking partner Doug Peel says his firm has not yet been asked to re-tender for the work.

He says: “We would love the panel to continue because we have a great relationship with EBRD. They are fundamental in markets like Russia where they are at the leading edge.

“When commercial firms start wanting to do more business in Russia we will have been doing that kind of business already with the EBRD. The people who have been doing that work will be the people the banks will turn to.”