Fee kick

Turmoil and turbulence – words that pretty much sum up the Spanish economy right now.

They aren’t bad shorthand for one of Spain’s biggest firms, Cuatrecasas, either. As we report today, 28 non-equity partners are apparently on the chopping block, while its financial performance is unlikely to provide much balm. Last year turnover rose by just under €1m to €242.6m (£202m).

Which makes its decision to take on one of Spain’s biggest-ever financing jobs effectively for free all the more curious. This week’s cover story tells the astonishing tale of how Cuatrecasas agreed to handle a mammoth bailout fund for just one euro. Until now, the most famous example of a Spanish firm handling a major project effectively on a pro bono basis was back in 2002 when an oil tanker sank, spilled its cargo off the Galician coast and Uría stepped up. The boat was the Prestige, which is just what Cuatrecasas is said to be after by acting for the Spanish government for nada. This time it’s debt that’s fouling economic waters, but the prestige associated with Cuatrecasas doing what it may see as its patriotic duty should not be underestimated.

That’s not all there is to this story. First, this complex financing structure will bring the Spanish firm into contact with 26 banks, not all of which are likely to be existing clients. The chance for Cuatrecasas to steal a march on the likes of Clifford Chance, Uría, Freshfields and Garrigues, all leaders in Spanish finance circles, by rubbing shoulders with the cream of the banking crop is a great way to kill 26 financial birds with 78p.

But there’s more, and it is oh so topical. Cuatrecasas’ chairman, Emilio Cuatrecasas, is facing a charge of tax evasion, with €3.7m alleged to have been channelled away from the public purse. There is no suggestion that his personal financial situation is in any way linked to firm-related matters. But Cuatrecasas the firm could do without another reputational headache in these stormy times. Frankly, it needs to get things sorted sooner rather than later. And that’s no bull.