Simmons eyes US capital markets work with strategic London hire

Simmons & Simmons' capital markets group is assaulting US securities work with the hire of its first US-qualified structured securities partner in London

Christopher Lewis joins the partnership from the New York office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he was a senior associate. Focusing on structured securities, Lewis will provide technical and structural advice relating to US law, particularly on the repackaging and securitisation transactions that form the bedrock of Simmons' capital markets practice. His clients include JP Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers.
The hire is the first step in a new expansion. Capital markets partner Ian Sideris said: “We do have other US-qualified lawyers, but this will be the first time we're holding ourselves out as practising US law.” In 1999, the firm enjoyed a joint international securities practice with US firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, which has since dissolved.
Structured securities work has been the group's main focus over the past year, but adding US capability on the equity capital markets side is a possibility. Simmons is also looking to add US capital markets expertise to some of its international offices. In the meantime, Lewis will be hiring a small team of US-qualified assistants to work as part of the group in London.
Sideris said the new hire was client-led. “Over the last 18 months or so, we've realised that, in order to develop our capital markets and particularly our structured securities practice, we needed to have US lawyers on board,” he said. “We're lucky to find Christopher. His expertise is exactly what we need and experienced practitioners in this field wanting to work in London are thin on the ground.”
Simmons' client list for capital markets work includes Bank of America, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse First Boston, UBS Warburg, Deutsche Bank, Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. Last year it acted for British Land on the £875m Meadowhall Shopping Centre securitisation, which closed in December.
Lewis recently worked on the series of Chase Credit Card Master Trusts and Owner Trusts, Gold Eagle Capital 2001, involving the securitisation of hurricane reinsurance risks, and the Navistar Financial Owner Trust, which involved the securitisation of loans and leases for haulage companies in the US.
Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer all started US groups in London in the late 1990s. Outside the magic circle, Simmons joins Herbert Smith and Norton Rose in gaining a US securities capability.