Andersens breaks with HK firm as it forges Singapore alliance

Arthur Andersen Legal has dumped its Hong Kong firm Ede Charlton only two years after setting up the practice – at the same time as acquiring a 67-lawyer Singapore firm.

Ex-Simmons & Simmons corporate partner Julia Charlton is understood to have reached an agreement with Andersens to allow her to keep practising under the Ede Charlton name from 30 October, when the contract with Andersens ends.

John Burrows, managing partner, Greater China at Andersens, said: “It was a matter of the strategy of the people running the firm. Our management and business approaches differed and we couldn't see the future in the same light.”

But, insiders claim the office has fallen victim to conflicts of strategy between regional heads within Andersen Accounting. Whatever the reason, Andersens spent heavily over the two years, bringing in Charlton to co-manage the firm with ex-Garretts litigation partner Justin Ede.

Charlton and Ede convinced Holman Fenwick corporate finance partner Gavin Nesbitt, Deacons Graham & James consultant Bernard Fleming and Herbert Smith property partner Nigel Bacon – as well as a dozen assistants – to join them in Andersens' Hong Kong legal venture.

Nesbitt, Fleming and another partner, Robert Hanka, are thought to be in the process of leaving and Bacon has already left to take up a non-legal role at a US property company.

Last month, Andersens claimed it had “recalled” Ede to his old firm Garretts.

But it is understood Andersens has no plan to let him into the partnership.

Five assistants at Ede Charlton are thought to be staying in Hong Kong to work with Charlton.

Meanwhile, Andersens has brought 67-lawyer Singapore firm Rajah & Tann into its network of associated law firms. The firm is strong in corporate rescue and insolvency and has corporate, construction, shipping, banking, insurance and intellectual property practices.

Managing partner VK Rajah said: “We are confident that with the synergy the relationship will generate, we can take the firm to new heights.”