Linklaters sheds clients to avoid conflicts

Linklaters has reviewed its financial services client base to avoid conflicts with its key institutional clients.

It is understood that more than 20 per cent of the firm’s global revenue now comes from just 10 financial institutions, including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and JPMorgan.

Linklaters’ long-term strategy is to focus even more of its resources on core relationships and it has already shed a number of clients that threatened to limit its ability to act for them. A Linklaters source referred to “a couple of former building societies”, but refused to name them.

At a cross-departmental meeting held last month, the firm identified financial institutions that could cause Linklaters conflict problems if the firm were to continue to accept work from them.

Any firm that accepted corporate instructions from institutions such as Bradford & Bingley or Northern Rock could find themselves conflicted in a consolidating UK banking sector. Smaller European banks would cause similar problems.

Linklaters is the preferred global supplier for RBS. However, it is thought that, in return for this prime position, Linklaters was asked to prioritise the bank above other clients in the sector.

The firm’s position in the UK clearing bank sector is indicative of how complicated the situation has become. Of the big five, Linklaters was already the main adviser to Lloyds and HBOS before it displaced Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as RBS’s adviser in 2003.