HSBC adds trio of US firms to expanded global panel

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Latham & Watkins and Mayer Brown have won first-time roles on HSBC’s expanded global legal panel after the bank introduced a sub-roster of US firms.

The Stateside trio joins existing panel firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Norton Rose on the all-round roster, which the bank revamped this summer in an attempt to formalise its relationships with American advisers.

The review of the panel, which also follows an increase in the bank’s demand for New York advice, was overseen by an in-house team including American-born chief legal officer Stuart Levey, who replaced group managing director and general counsel Richard Bennett at the start of the year (16 January 2012).

Bennett is set to remain at HSBC working alongside Levey until the end of 2012 during a transition period and is understood to have retained an element of influence over the panel decisions. In-house lawyers Hywel Evans on the markets side and Jonathan Peplow in loans were also consulted as part of the review.

A number of US firms are thought to have pitched for the coveted places after an extensive procurement process, with the panel understood to have been substantially unchanged for several years. The tender process included both fee demands and diversity requirements.

Cleary, Latham and Mayer Brown all have existing relationships with HSBC, with Cleary and Norton Rose both advising the bank on its 2009 £12.5bn rights issue (2 March 2009). Latham and Mayer Brown have both won a number of finance mandates from the bank in recent years.

HSBC said in a statement: “After working with these three highly respected global firms for many years, we are pleased to add them to our panel. They will supplement the excellent service we have been receiving from our existing global panel of approved law firms.”

In addition to the over-arching global panel, HSBC operates relatively informal sub-panels for specific areas on which a number of other firms sit. One City banking partner said there had been a sense coming out of the company for a long time that it was considering bringing its legal operations more in line with competitors in terms of the formality of its panels.

HSBC’s move resembles that of UK rival Barclays, which last year introduced a US sub-panel on which Cleary, Shearman & Sterling and Sullivan & Cromwell won inaugural places (1 July 2011).