Shearman throws down high-yield gauntlet with City raid on Latham

The rivalry between US firms’ finance teams was heightened last week with Latham & Watkins high-yield London partner Jacques McChesney defecting to Shearman & Sterling.

With both firms typically taking top spots in the London high-yield market, the hire was a coup for Shearman, which regards Latham as a direct rival in the high-yield market.

Shearman London managing partner Kenneth MacRitchie said: “The London market’s very interesting in this particular sector and Latham is certainly counted as part of the competition. Jacques’ arrival will be valuable to an already strong team. High-yield has been one of the driving forces for the growth of the London office.”

Shearman’s high-yield team now consists of capital markets partners McChesney and Ward McKimm and the recently promoted Mike Benjamin.

Core banking clients include Barclays, Citi, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. The firm’s success in London was built up in part by capital markets partner, and now head of capital markets for the Americas, David Beveridge.

A magic circle finance partner said: “When David moved back to the US a few years ago I think some people doubted whether Shearman could maintain their strong position. They’re still very successful, but Latham does hold the top spot.”

Latham’s London office includes four high-yield partners, including Bryant Edwards and Brett Cassidy.

Edwards said: “We frequently feature at the top of various rankings in this sector in London and have done for some time. We have four partners and 34 associates based in the high-yield team and I think we’re strong rivals to our competitors.”

Edwards named Credit Suisse, Calyon, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and Société Générale as key clients. On the issuer side, Global Crossing and BC Partners were listed as relationship clients.

Although US firms have dominated the high-yield sector in recent years, with Cravath Swaine & Moore, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and White & Case joining Shearman and Latham at the top, Clifford Chance and Linklaters have also made their marks.

Clifford Chance capital markets partner Michael Dakin said: “There’s a relatively small number of firms that have been really successful in high-yield. To maintain a strong position in the market a firm needs to make sure the relationships with the banks are nurtured. Latham and Shearman have typically done very well with this.”

Both MacRitchie and Edwards asserted that high-yield had been one of the keys to success for their firms in London. The lateral hire of McChesney indicates that Shearman is still very serious about maintaining its competitive position in the sector.

MacRitchie said: “We expect next year to be busy for us and we believe we have the right team of partners and associates to keep us at the top in London.”