Citigroup opens the floodgates

Satellite firms receive boost as bank's general counsel paves the way for new faces; ten firms in dogfight for placings

Citigroup has eased up on the exclusivity rules governing its panel, giving the green light to firms eager to develop relationships with the bank.
Over the last few months, as many as 10 firms – including Herbert Smith, Lovells, Slaughter and May and White & Case – have approached Citigroup to pitch for a place on its panel.
Although there has been no official appointment, Slaughters is now treated as a panel firm. It was successful because it leveraged off its relationship with Schroders, which merged with Citigroup subsidiary Salomon Smith Barney in 2000.
However, Norton Rose has not pitched for the panel despite advising on the Schroder merger.
A decision has yet to be made on the other firms, but Lovells is being looked at for use in the UK and Paris, while Herbert Smith is being singled out for litigation.
Freshfields, which was blacklisted by the bank after it was sued by the firm over Brunei (The Lawyer, 12 June 1999) is starting to come back into favour, according to a senior source at the bank.
Citigroup is also considering Bird & Bird and Morrison & Foerster to do its technology work.
According to a senior source at Citigroup, the bank is planning to set up a number of panels for specialist areas.
One partner at a law firm already on the panel said: “Brad Gans [Citibank European general counsel] is not a panel man, and since he joined the bank the system is being less and less enforced. Now there's a much more pragmatic approach and already the routine work is being spread out more broadly.”
Previously, bankers' individual relationships with firms not on the panel were blocked, but now the consensus is that Gans will allow the bankers more choice.
“Before, if you were advising on local law issues but not on the panel for European work, then it wasn't even worth asking whether you could advise on the UK law issues. But now it's a matter of picking up the phone,” said a second source.
The panel was set up by Laurie Adams approxim-ately 10 years ago and was reviewed at the end of 2000 following the merger with Schroders.
Firms on the main panel include Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Shearman & Sterling and Watson Farley & Williams.
A separate project finance panel was set up in March 2001 which included A&O, Clifford Chance, Denton Wilde Sapte, the City office of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy and Norton Rose.
The shift in attitude began at the beginning of last year, when Adams left for ABN Amro and Gans was brought in from New York.