It has been an extraordinary 18 months for the legal team at Collins Stewart Tullett. During that time they have been involved in the £133m merger between Collins Stewart Tullett and Prebon, have won a difficult court case in Hong Kong over the poaching of staff and have settled a defamation case against the Financial Times (FT) for £300,000.
The lengthy battle with the FT concluded in January with the newspaper agreeing to publish an apology for four articles that appeared during 2003 based on allegations by a former employee. The settlement came during night-long negotiations just before the 20-day libel hearing. Collins Stewart was seeking £37m in damages, but eventually accepted £300,000, plus payment of £2m legal costs and the apology.
For Simon Clark, group head of legal at the broker, the case was not about curtailing freedom of the press, but protecting the Collins Stewart good name.
“We had to protect the company’s reputation. We have no problem in anything being written about the company providing it is accurate,” says Clark.
Clark instructed media litigator Rod Christie-Miller from Schillings to help bring the case, although it was Clark and his team that directed the tactics.
Clark says: “This case proves that it pays to have a good team around you. The strategy for the case came from us and Schillings employed that strategy very effectively.”
Despite the protracted nature of the dispute, Clark says there are “no hard feelings”, although he is glad it is over.
And it is just as well the case has been settled, considering the projects Collins Stewart is embarking on this year.
Clark is full of enthusiasm as he explains the new brand that the brokerage is launching named ‘Clearly the best’, which has three strands – ‘the best’, ‘innovation’ and ‘winning’. The legal team will be advising on everything from the worldwide branding to making sure the IT system can be rolled out properly.
Collins Stewart is also launching an apprenticeship scheme that will be open to anyone who thinks they can do well in the company.
When not waxing lyrical about Collins Stewart’s upcoming projects, Clark talks enthusiastically about a company where he was the first legal director and has been in a unique position to see all the changes.
He is also keen to talk up the company’s success. “What other company do you know that has created more than £1bn of shareholder value in little more than a year?” he asks with a smile.
Clark encourages his team of five lawyers (two in the UK, two in the US and one in the Far East) to take a wide-ranging approach to their jobs.
“The lawyers must get to know the various business areas of the firm. It’s a very fluid structure and there’s lots of cross-pollination,” says Clark.
“I also encourage everybody in the team to do more than just the job, by getting them to participate in industry bodies,” he adds.
Clark was headhunted by Tullett in 2003 when the broker was looking to put itself up for sale. It was the first time it had employed a general counsel. Six months later Collins Stewart bought the broker and Clark was asked to stay on. The combined Collins Stewart Tullett has 3,000 staff in 27 countries, with 50 offices.
Clark has also enjoyed spells at UBS, where he worked with the now-Barclays Bank general counsel, Mark Harding, Salomon Brothers (now Citigroup), Lehman Brothers and Barlow Lyde Gilbert, where he cut his litigation credentials.
At Collins Stewart, Clark’s role extends to more than just legal affairs, as he is also directly responsible for compliance and HR, giving him an additional 30 staff who report to him.
Clark also differs from many of his contemporaries by not favouring the panel system. “If you have a panel, you end up having an annual discussion about fees and service levels. You also create a new level of bureaucracy just to administer it,” he says.
Instead, Clark says he likes to pick firms that have “invested time and effort to get to know our business”.
Among those firms are Allen & Overy, which is instructed for big-ticket corporate work, and Rosenblatt Solicitors, which acted for Collins Stewart when a former analyst brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the broker in 2003. The claim was later dropped.
In the US, Proskauer Rose, Carter Ledyard & Milburn, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Schulte Roth & Zabel all make the grade, while in Asia, Clark uses Shook Lin & Bok.
The choices may be surprising for a company with the global reach of Collins Stewart, but Clark’s reasoning is simple. “We don’t look for law firms which have an office in every city,” he explains. “We look to go to law firms that have certain areas of specialisation and get the job done. We’re very loyal to our firms.”
With all the success that Clark and his team have had recently, that loyalty looks set to continue for a long time. Ã¢Â€Â¢
Group head of legal
Collins Stewart Tullett
|Organisation||Collins Stewart Tullett|
|Group head of legal||Simon Clark|
|Reporting to||Chief executive Terry Smith|
|Main advisers||Allen & Overy, Carter Ledyard & Milburn, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, Proskauer Rose, Rosenblatt Solicitors, Schillings, Schulte Roth & Zabel, Shook Lin & Bok|