McGuireWoods poaches FCA chief criminal counsel

US firm McGuireWoods has bulked up its London regulatory and criminal investigation team with the hire of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chief criminal counsel David Kirk.

Kirk, who has been with the UK financial watchdog since 2009 and will leave in November, will join the firm’s London government, regulatory and criminal investigations team as a partner from January 2014. He follows in the footsteps of Vivian Robinson QC, the former general counsel of the Serious Fraud Office who joined the US firm in 2011.

Kirk is one of the FCA’s most senior prosecuters, having managed all aspects of criminal investigations and prosecutions during his time at the regulator. Prior to joining FCA’s predecessor the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Kirk served as director of the Fraud Prosecution Service and was a partner at Stephenson Harwood and Simons Muirhead & Burton.  

According to reports it was a former Stephenson Hardwood colleague, Margaret Cole, who persuaded Kirk to join the UK watchdog. Cole, the former managing director of FSA’s conduct business unit, left the FSA last year for a general counsel at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) UK (20 March 2012).

The year also saw the exit of FSA’s former CEO Hector Sants, who left to become head of Barclays’ compliance function (6 December 2012). The hire gave Sants, who headed the financial watchdog between 2007 and June 2012, a newly created role of head of compliance and government and regulatory relations.

Kirk said: “With the expansion in investigation of conduct by a wide spectrum of businesses internationally, it is important for law firms to provide the best possible advice with regard to future conduct, as well as assisting clients in dealing with any past or current problems in this area. 

Earlier this year Clifford Chance, Hogan Lovells and DLA Piper were among the firms to have been appointed to the FCA’s first panel of experts that will be called upon to undertake investigations at banks (2 April 2013).  In September 2012 the FSA unveiled plans for the panel which would be called up on to provide skilled person reports, also known as Section 166 reports, as part of the body’s ongoing risk-based approach to regulation (14 September 2012).

It is not yet known who is replacing Kirk at the FCA.