Here’s a curious thing.
Linklaters is acting for Bank of America, the US financial institution that, along with Citigroup, had been a main banker to bankrupt Italian food group Parmalat.
On the other side of this equation is Italian powerhouse Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners, which is representing the appointed commissioner (known in the UK as the administrator) to Parmalat in its Italian court proceedings.
Bank of America, which recently stated that its exposure to the food giant would reach $274m (£149.1m), is suing Parmalat, claiming fraud. It isn’t pretty.
Linklaters and Gianni Origoni have been alliance pals for a number of years. The Italian firm came into the now defunct Linklaters & Alliance setup pretty late in the game and, unlike the German, Belgium and Swiss members, never merged with the UK practice.
Early last year, though, Linklaters and Gianni Origoni signed a new agreement, re-establishing their exclusivity to each other in terms of referrals and cementing the firms’ policy of sharing secondees.
Importantly, however, while the firms work closely together, they do not have access to one IT system, and therefore confidential information, or share profits. So there we have it: there is no conflict on Parmalat.
So separate are these two, that when it comes to submitting deals for the mergermarket and Thomson Financial league tables, both insist that each firm’s work is accounted for separately. You won’t even find the isolationist Slaughter and May doing this.
The firm is quite happy to make joint submissions with, for example, its German best friend Hengler Mueller. Herbert Smith has gone one step further: it shares offices and joint documentation on transactions with alliance friends Stibbe and Gleiss Lutz.
Hell, Herbert Smith even has a little orange-and-blue logo telling us they are “in association with Gleiss Lutz and Stibbe”.
Linklaters, though, announces its link with Gianni Origoni as soon as you walk through the door at Silk Street, as the Italian firm’s name glints at you from a pillar telling you the two are associated.
Yet I just can’t see where they are aligned, and indeed, apart from training and the odd deal, what the advantages are.
True, as part of last year’s new agreement, the two firms will, at a certain point, review whether to combine or just carry on as is.
It is not certain that Gianni Origoni even wants to merge with Linklaters, because let’s face it, Anglo-Italian mergers have hardly been a resounding success, as certain other magic circle firms can attest.
Add to this the fact that Italian lawyers enjoy huge, and closely guarded, profits, so why take the chance on losing out on that?
One thing is for sure: you can bet that Linklaters isn’t anywhere near having its own Italian presence. The Gianni Origoni link may seem like the best of both worlds now, but Linklaters may, in the long run, regret not investing in its own Italian operation.