Freshfields pulls project finance out of Washington

Partners relocate to New York and Paris; DC left with antitrust and tax capability.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has moved its project finance team out of Washington DC, relocating partners to New York and Paris. The Washington office will now handle only antitrust and tax issues.

Freshfields’ head of finance Simon Hall said: “We took the view that we should consolidate our US projects practice in New York.”

Project finance partner Ellen Hayes will be relocated to the New York office. Remaining finance partner Thomas Hechl will move to Paris in a bid to bolster the firm’s UK-law project finance capacity.

The Paris office is handling some major French projects, including the trans-Pyrenean highway, and the UK management perceive it to be understaffed.

Much of Hechl’s work was for for multilateral lenders, particularly the International Finance Corporation.

One source at Freshfields said: “It was a very spiky practice area.” The source claimed that the market for sovereign lending is patchy due to increased political uncertainty. The multilateral lenders, mainly headquartered in Washington, are no longer willing to lend in jurisdictions such as Indonesia. The source said there has been a shift in focus to African lending, which was not producing as much work.

Freshfields has had a project finance team in Washington for the last four years. Last year, the firm added a US antitrust practice, moving dual US-UK competition partner Alan Ryan out to Washington to head the group. The four antitrust partners currently in Washington remain unaffected by the move.

Two weeks ago, The Lawyer revealed that Lovells was to shut its Washington office with consumer finance and regulatory partner Anne Fortney moving to Virginia-based firm Hudson Cook. Sources at the firm said the small team was insufficiently profitable and the practice did not fit in with the firm’s overseas strategy.