Hughes Hubbard’s head case

Headhunter launches action for non-payment of recruitment fees

US firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s Paris office hired a team of SNR Denton lawyers earlier this year, bulking up in corporate, banking and TMT. The firm may now be wishing it had snapped up an employment lawyer to boot, as it is facing court action from a head- hunter for non-payment of fees.

Eric Ohayon is suing Hughes Hubbard in a Versailles court for €353,000 (£293,000) for allegedly failing to pay him for 10 months’ work. Ohayon was brought in by Hughes Hubbard to help build its Paris office, in particular in corporate, as well as to advise on questions of strategy and development. According to Ohayon, Hughes Hubbard was keen for him to replicate the success he had recruiting for Weil Gotshal & Manges in Paris a number of years ago.

Ohayon was talking to potential recruits, but in November 2011 the team of partners from SNR Denton got in touch with Hughes Hubbard Paris managing partner José Rosell, unsolicited, and quickly struck a deal. Ohayon is arguing that the terms of his contract stipulate that, regardless of how the team was hired, he is still due a fee. Hughes Hubbard evidently disagrees.

Ohayon has previous form suing law firms. In 2007 (The Lawyer, 7 May 2007) he sued Jones Day in a French court for €60,000 for breach of contract. At the time Jones Day said it was appealing the judgment, but later settled with Ohayon.

According to Ohayon, a number of other recruiters with grievances against Hughes Hubbard are watching his action closely.

Hughes Hubbard did not respond in time for comment.