Wilde Sapte hit by Paris defections and NY disclosure

Wilde Sapte has shut its New York office and lost at least half its Paris fee earners in a shattering blow to the firm's international ambitions.

If the Paris office shuts it will leave the firm with only one European beachhead in Brussels and outposts in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Senior asset finance associate Matthieu de Varax is joining Simmons & Simmons' Paris office as a partner with a team of two other lawyers and support staff.

And, as revealed by The Lawyer in June, US and French qualified asset finance partner Thomas McDonald is joining White & Case's Paris office. It has now emerged that he is taking two assistants with him.

The two remaining partners in Wilde Sapte's office, Richard Macklin and Olivier Tordjman, are understood to be considering their future at the firm.

McDonald's departure was widely expected after he publicly voiced opposition to the proposed merger with Arthur Andersen.

He said that his talks with White & Case had “gone too far” by the time that Andersens called the deal off.

In New York, both resident partner Diarmuid Brennan and assistant Sally Robertson have left the firm.

Steven Blakeley, the firm's managing partner, said that with the advance of modern communications the representative office had become “redundant”.

He would not comment on the Paris defections, but said the firm would uphold the “poison pill” clause in partners' contracts that requires a six-month notice period and allows only two partners to leave each year.

McDonald and the other partners could be tied to the firm for several years.