Co-op panel: trolley mixture

Co-op in-housers work to forge legal roster system that suits bank and group

Picking sides is generally something associated with the school playground, but not for The Co-operative Group general counsel Alistair Asher and his newly installed banking sidekick Brona McKeown.

The pair were required to finalise the separation of the group and the bank’s legal teams by 20 December, splitting the formerly unified team. It was to be a clean break, with each side having its own general counsel, a distinct IT system and even its own office space. 

With what must have been a nightmarish web to un-weave, they finally settled on a 60/40 personnel split, with the majority working on the group side of the business.

As if that was not enough structural wrangling, the duo now face the task of figuring out the size and shape of the group and bank legal panels.

The group panel currently consists of about 10 firms, including Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters, which picked up the lion’s share of the work involved in the huge restructuring job last year. It is thought that the in-house duo are now working to design a panel system that works for them both.

Sources say they are toying with a couple of ideas – having separate panels for group and the bank, or having some sort of overarching joint panel in addition to smaller individual ones.

Whatever they come up with, it is bound to bring changes for their external advisers – a lesson that A&O has already learned the hard way, being conflicted out of restructuring work for the bank back in November.