Bingham thinks laterally to boost financial services

Bingham has brought in a new ­enforcement head for its New York office as it looks to flesh out its financial services ­offering in the US and UK.

Neal Sullivan
Neal Sullivan

Susan Merrill joins the firm’s 75-strong ­broker-dealer group from the Financial ­Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), where as executive vice-president and chief of enforcement she headed the team investigating violations of federal ­securities laws.

It is the latest in a string of lateral hires for Bingham in the financial services area over the past two years, including last month’s capture of former O’Melveny & Myers partner Lizzie Baird. Others include Michael Wolk, former vice-president and chief counsel of the market ­regulation department at Finra, and Geoffrey Aronow, ex-director of enforcement at the ­Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

As highlighted by The Lawyer last week (12 April), Bingham had a strong showing in 2009, with global revenue increasing from $767m (£496.35m) in 2008 to $860m in 2009. A big ­contributor to its recent success has been its ­regulatory expertise.

Neal Sullivan, co-chair of Bingham’s financial services practice and head of the broker-dealer group, says the firm first decided to invest in the area eight years ago, but really stepped it up over the past year.

“We’ve been active in the lateral market, particularly since the second quarter of 2008,” he says. “It’s a continuation of a plan we first presented to the firm’s partnership committee around eight years ago, pushing for ­enforcement to become a core practice area. The lateral hires have all been part of putting this plan in place.”

Sullivan believes the hire of Merrill comes close to rounding off the US practice and that the firm is now turning its eye to strengthening the UK financial regulatory group.

“Every single one of our US clients had ­significant broker operations in London and we made a very strategic decision to extend our practice in London,” he says. “We didn’t want to bring in people from the US who held themselves out as FSA experts, we brought in people who knew the FSA, and the FSA knew them.”

Sullivan says that, in terms of recruitment, the London market is probably the one ­Bingham is more focused on.

“We’re definitely looking to build up the UK practice, and with people with FSA ­experience, particularly asset management and derivatives,” he adds. “There’s not a ­timeline. We’re looking for the right person to fit in; thankfully we have a pretty robust ­practice and don’t need to rush.”