The abysmal state of the US loan market has added an extra dimension to the legal team at the Loan Syndication and Trading Association (LSTA). As an integral part of the documentation process, and a valuable source of support and education for banks and lawyers, the industry body is the first port of call for those seeking advice post-credit crunch.
“Even though we’re a small team we get a lot of exposure to the wider market in so many different ways,” says Bridget Marsh, assistant general counsel of the LSTA. “We have a duty to our members to be informative on market conditions and also ensure our documentation is properly negotiated.”
Like its UK counterpart, the Loan Market Association (LMA), the LSTA develops a range of recommended documentation for its 276 members. As general counsel Marsh is responsible for negotiating the complex terms and conditions of each piece of documentation that holds the LSTA seal of approval.
“It can be a long and painful process because we take into consideration the buy and sell-side of our membership,” Marsh admits. “But it’s worth it because the end result is something that will not need to be adjusted too much and is an excellent piece of work that works well.”
The 13-year-old LSTA has recently seen significant growth in membership. Law firms represent the largest number of members at 39 per cent, with sell-side representatives and institutional investors making up 18 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Service providers account for 7 per cent.
Being representative makes the LSTA a more valuable body, but it also makes Marsh’s job of developing documentation more challenging.
This year Marsh and her team have been working on several new documentations. The proceeds letter and the par participation agreement are currently the subject of rigorous negotiation between the LSTA’s working groups, which comprise buy-side and sell-side members.
“What I find interesting is being a part of creating documents that are used as industry standards,” says Marsh. “In private practice you’re getting the deals done and looking at the documentation from a different perspective. This was definitely an attraction of the job.”
Marsh has had a varied and international career path. After graduating from Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, in 1994, she had a year-long stint at the Federal Court of Australia and then joined Simmons & Simmons’ corporate team in London.
Simmons ;gave ;Marsh ;the opportunity to travel, sending her on secondment to the budding Abu Dhabi office in 1998.
“It was very exciting to work in the Middle East,” Marsh explains. “I originally went for six weeks and ended up staying a year. I really enjoyed the experience, which for a junior lawyer was tremendous.”
After three years at Simmons, Marsh defected to Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in New York, where she worked for five years in the corporate department.
“People ask whether working for a US firm is different from working for a UK firm. I don’t think it is,” states Marsh. “Simmons and Milbank were both interesting, dynamic firms to work for.”
As a client of Milbank, moving to the LSTA was a natural progression for Marsh.
“My job’s so varied and I’m right at the cutting edge of the loan market,” she says. “One of the most interesting parts of my job is putting together the seminars and workshops we have for our members and working with other trade bodies.”
The LSTA works closely with the LMA, the American Bar Association and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association to provide education and guidance on key issues concerning the market.
“We’re speaking with the LMA much more now because, by sharing information and having regular conversations, we can benefit our members,” Marsh explains. “While there are clearly differences with how various issues are dealt with in different jurisdictions, there are a lot of trends and developments that overlap in the loan markets. It makes sense for us to work together.”
With a two-strong legal team, Marsh covers a lot of ground. By developing groundbreaking documentation, as well as providing essential support for its members, the LSTA is a vital part of the US loans market.
And as markets show signs of continued weakness for the rest of 2008, Marsh’s team will become even more prominent.
Name: Bridget Marsh
Organisation: Loan Syndication and Trading Association (LSTA)
Sector: Financial Services
Position: Vice-senior president and assistant general counsel
Reporting to: General counsel Elliot Ganz
Number of employees: 16
Legal capability: Two
Bridget Marsh’s CV
1992-94: Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
1995-96: Associate to the Hon Justice Beaumont, Federal Court of Australia
1996-99: Corporate associate, Simmons & Simmons, London and Abu Dhabi
2000-05: Corporate finance associate, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, New York
2006-present: Vice-senior president and assistant general counsel, LSTA