Five-partner finance team quits Sidley for E&Y DC firm

One of the leading structured finance teams in the US is leaving newly-merged Sidley Austin Brown & Wood to join Ernst & Young’s law firm McKee Nelson Ernst & Young.

The team of five partners, believed to be the biggest structured finance team in the US outside New York, is the first to desert the firm, which voted for the merger at the end of April.

The team is joining Washington DC-based McKee Nelson, which is the only firm in the US that is tied to an accountants.

The firm is rebranding as McKee Nelson with effect from 21 May as it plans to open in New York within six months and the New York Bar Association prohibits law firms using accountancy firm’s names.

The moving team comprises partners John Arnholz, Edward Gainor, Thomas Lyden, Nicholas Singh and John Steele and 15 other lawyers. They were originally Brown & Wood partners in Washington DC, and are understood to have objected to linking up with Sidley & Austin’s DC office because it is much larger and is principally a litigation practice.

Their arrival gives Ernst & Young the only transatlantic structured finance legal practice among the accountancy-tied law firms. In London, its tied firm Tite & Lewis has focused on building up a structured finance practice under the leadership of Tamara Box, a former partner from the London office of San Francisco’s Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Founding partner Will Nelson says: “Our strategic objective has been to build a full-throated top end capital markets/transactional firm that lines up with Ernst & Young internationally, so that in those circumstances where multinational clients would like to have all their advisers coordinated on a job, we can provide coordinated services.”

McKee Nelson Ernst & Young launched in November 1999 and before this team arrived boasted 13 partners and 15 associates, mainly focusing on tax and tax litigation work.

The team from Sidley Austin declined to name its clients but says that the majority of them will move to McKee Nelson.

Arnholz says: “We certainly have clients of the highest standing in the financial services market. We have very strong relationships with all the major Wall Street players and the other financial institutions.

“Ernst & Young has an international business and as the capital markets have become more global that is something that appealed to me hugely.”

Sidley Austin was unavailable for comment.