Revealed: Hogan Lovells asked Berlin partner to leave firm

After confirming the exit of Hogan Lovells partner Christoph Wagner last week The Lawyer can reveal that he was asked to resign for criticising a major IP client.

christoph wagner
Christoph Wagner

Technology partner Christoph Wagner wrote an article in German newspaper FAZ in May in which he slated Deutsche Telekom for its ‘data throttling’ policy. He accused the company of restricting internet freedom, despite the fact it is one of the firm’s biggest IP clients.

Following the controversy, Wagner was asked to resign.

A memo sent to Hogan Lovells partners, seen by The Lawyer, said Wagner “was in breach of our procedures as well as of our values and our culture, and which put the relationship with that client at serious risk”.

Last week Wagner confirmed he would be moving to set up Morrison & Foerster’s (MoFo) first German office in Berlin (24 September 2013).

At the time, the firm believed Wagner would be leaving alone but it now appears the whole nine-partner technology team is leaving with Wagner to join MoFo, resulting in the shutting down of Hogan Lovells in Berlin.

The departing group consists of M&A trio Karin Arnold, Dirk Besse and Jörg Meissner, competition specialist Eckhard Bremer, TMT regulatory and antitrust partner Andreas Grünwald and litigation partner Thomas Keul. The new MoFo office will be headed by real estate partner Jens-Uwe Hinder and data privacy partner Hanno Timner.

However the partners have still not formally resigned. Last week CEO David Harris said: “Christoph Wagner’s move earlier this month was planned and agreed. At the time of his departure, the Berlin office partners expressed their strong desire to stay with the firm and we supported that.”

The Lawyer understands that despite telling the firm they would stay, the entire team has confirmed it is leaving imminently and the firm is in the middle of negotiating their exit. Meanwhile Hogan Lovells is said to be talking to associates to establish whether they would be staying.  

Wagner could not be reached for comment and a Hogan Lovells spokesperson declined to comment. 

The closing of Hogan Lovells’ Berlin office leaves the firm with four German offices, making up 90 per cent of the firm’s German revenue.