City of London

Willkie Farr & Gallagher adds partner to its London office

Willkie Farr & Gallagher has added a partner to its London office with the hire of Slaughter and May associate Simon Osborn-King, as the US outfit continues to build out its corporate crime and investigations practice in the City.

Osborn-King, who has spent more than 10 years at Slaughters after joining as a trainee in 2007, has worked on a number of high-profile investigations during his time at the magic circle firm. These include Deutsche Bank’s interbank rate-rigging probe, which settled in 2015, as well as an unsuccessful attempt by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to prosecute Japanese camera maker Olympus, which was dropped the same year.

Willkie London litigation, compliance and enforcement and white-collar defence practice head Peter Burrell told Legal Week: “Investigations and compliance are one of the core practices of the firm globally. We have been expanding our London and Europe teams, and in the City we’ve seen real growth in the amount of work we’re doing.

“We’re acting for corporates, financial institutions and individuals across the space, in areas including contentious regulatory work and SFO investigations.”

Burrell joined Willkie in 2012 from legacy Herbert Smith to launch the London practice for the US firm, and since then it has grown from one partner and an associate in the City, to three partners, 10 associates and two paralegals.

The team is currently advising Barclays on fraud charges brought by the SFO last year relating to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with Qatari investors during the 2008 financial crisis.

Burrell added: “We’re in a unique position in London because we have a mixture of US- and UK-qualified lawyers and we’re seeing more demand from our English clients for assistance. Simon has a fantastic pedigree and background across financial services and regulatory work, including contentious matters for the SFO and civil litigation. He is the perfect fit as we continue growing our European offering.”

While at Herbert Smith, Burrell secured a formal corporate plea bargain for client Mabey and Johnson, the first UK company to be convicted for overseas bribery and corruption and violations of sanctions laws. His other clients have included Virgin, Severn Trent, Weir Group and Willis Limited.

Emmanuel PHOTO

An Appraisal Of Challenges Of Enforcing Foreign Judgments In Nigeria

Enforcement of foreign judgments has significant relevance in this era of increased international trade and foreign investment. Businesses are more comfortable doing business with foreign partners knowing that if they obtain judgment from a superior court in their home country; it can be enforced against the judgment debtor across borders. Fortunately, Nigerian courts recognize judgments from superior courts of commonwealth countries and countries with reciprocal treatment with Nigeria. This has increased the confidence of foreigners and foreign companies to do business with Nigerians and Nigerian companies. Nevertheless, the procedure for registration of foreign judgment in Nigeria is not without challenges. Apart from the uncertainty in the statute and rules regulating the enforcement of foreign judgment, the procedure for registration of foreign judgments does not take cognizance of the evolving trends in global economy and international commerce.

The statute regulating the enforcing of foreign judgments in Nigeria is imprecise. Ordinarily the recent Foreign Judgment (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, CAP 152, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 (“the Act”) would have been the legislation regulating enforcement of foreign judgment but the Supreme Court in the case of Macaulay v R.Z.B of Austria (2003) 18 NWLR (Pt. 852) 282 held that the Minister of Justice has not made an order extending the Act to judgments of the United Kingdom and other countries with reciprocal treatment with Nigeria pursuant to Sections 3 (1) and 9 (1) of the Act as such the first part of Act is inapplicable. Again, in the case of Grosvenor Casinos Ltd v Ghassan Halaoui (2009) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1149) 309, the Supreme Court postulated that both the Act and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Ordinance, CAP 175, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1958 (“the Ordinance”) (“applicable legislations”) are relevant statutes in the enforcement of foreign judgments in Nigeria.

The imprecision on the particular statute regulating foreign judgment enforcement has a devastating effect on the whole process of registering foreign judgment in Nigeria. For instance, the time within which to register a judgment under the Act is 6 years while the time to register a judgment under the Ordinance is 12 months. Since there is no Foreign Judgment Enforcement Rules for the Act, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Rules of the Ordinance (“Rules of the Ordinance”) which was enacted in 1922 regulates the legal conditions for registration of foreign judgment in Nigeria today. Rules 1 (1) and 5 of the Rules of the Ordinance which provides that the application for enforcement of foreign judgment be made by a motion ex-parte is inconsistent with the modern concept of fair hearing and the current civil procedure rules of Courts that an adverse party must be put on notice. It is without doubt that the Rules of the Ordinance is out of touch with modern realities and the different conditions in the applicable legislations have led to calamity and more uncertainty.

In a recent Ruling of a Lagos High Court, per Candide-Johnson J, the Court rejected the registration of a Judgment of Justice Michael Burton of the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial London on the ground that since the Lagos Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the subject matter before the original Court, it could not register and execute the Judgment of the original court against the judgment debtor. But registration of foreign judgment under the provisions of the applicable legislations appears to be a subject matter on its own. Little wonder the process of registration of foreign judgment is regulated by its separate and distinct legislations and rules which spell out its conditions and legal requirements.

The applicable legislations provide that Nigerian courts shall accord reciprocal treatment to judgment of ‘superior courts’ from commonwealth countries and other countries with reciprocal treatment with Nigeria. They also provide that a judgment creditor from a foreign country with reciprocal treatment with Nigeria may apply to a ‘superior court’ in Nigeria within the specified time for registration of the judgment. From the ordinary meaning of the wordings of the provisions of the applicable legislations on conditions for registration of foreign judgments, it did not contemplate that the jurisdiction of the Nigerian court to register a foreign judgment will be subject to its jurisdiction to hear and determine the original subject matter of the case. Since the judgment creditor is not asking the Nigerian court to hear the case based on its subject matter, but to grant leave for registration of the foreign judgment under the applicable legislations only, Nigerian courts have no business making its jurisdiction to hear the subject matter of the case, a condition precedent for registration of the judgment. Unless the appellate courts pronounce on this grey area, it will continue to impede the registration of foreign judgments in Nigeria.

An interesting requirement of the applicable legislations is that the Defendant against whom the foreign judgment is to be enforced must have been a Defendant at the original court. This requirement creates a profound difficulty for Judgment creditors. With the recent economic meltdown, businesses are trying to stay afloat by merging or acquiring other companies. To maintain a local presence, a multinational company may take over the business and goodwill of viable Nigerian Company. Upon such takeover the acquired company is wound up. What then happens to a judgment creditor who obtained a foreign judgment against the acquired company? Does it mean that the judgment creditor cannot maintain a cause of action against the acquiring company just because the acquiring company was not a Defendant at the original court? Since the acquiring company acquired both the assets and liabilities of the acquired company and the acquired company is no more, the justice of the case demands that the foreign judgment obtained against the acquired company should be enforced against the acquiring company.

Another curious requirement in both the Act and the Ordinance is that foreign judgments in respect of fine, taxes and penalties cannot be enforced in Nigeria. This is against the whole concept of reciprocal treatment of judgment because it may give a safe haven to impenitent tax evaders. With the increase in tax evasion by foreign businesses and multinational companies, inability of states and government bodies to recover judgment debts in respect of fines, taxes and penalties across borders would led to a great loss of revenue. The role of fines, taxes and penalties is invaluable in the economic development of states in the 21st Century. Unlike the 19th Century where most states closed their borders against foreign goods and investment, the 21st century world is a global village.

Though Section 1 (2) of the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933(“the United Kingdom’s Act”) provides that taxes or other charges of a like nature or in respect of a fine or other penalty cannot be registered and enforced in United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron in a letter to Leaders of the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) dated 20 May 2013 said “… I very much welcome the commitments you have made to automatic tax information exchange, both on a bilateral and multilateral basis, which will help us to reach our goal of setting a global standard in tax transparency… We also need to ensure information exchange works effectively for all… That is why we strongly support the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters” This highlights the importance of cross border tax collection. Nigeria will gain more if it offers herself and other states the opportunity to recover fine, taxes and penalties against evading offenders by either amending her Foreign Judgment statutes to accord foreign judgments on fine, taxes and penalties the same status with monetary judgments or enter into Multilateral and Bilateral treaties with other states to assist themselves on recovery of cross borders fine, taxes and penalties.

Furthermore, the requirement that once an appeal is filed at the original court, the foreign judgment cannot be registered at the registering court may be prejudicial to the judgment creditor. What happens in a situation where an unscrupulous debtor in an attempt to forever deny the judgment creditor the fruits of his judgment files an appeal at the original jurisdiction and goes to sleep? What happens to the judgment creditor where the judgment debtor dissipates the res before outcome of the appeal at the original court? Is it not justiciable to preserve the res at the registering court pending the outcome of the appeal at the original jurisdiction? This is the reasoning behind the provisions of Section 1 (3) of the United Kingdom’s Act which provides that “a judgment shall be deemed to be final and conclusive notwithstanding that an appeal may be pending against it, or that it may still be subject to appeal, in the courts of the country of the original court”.

In conclusion, there is a need for the lingering crisis on the law regulating enforcement of foreign judgment in Nigeria to be settled. The legal conditions for enforcement of foreign judgment have been interpreted too broadly to adequately protect the interest of foreign judgment creditors. Therefore, the law and rules should be amended to reflect modern realities. The Courts should be proactive in breaking new grounds and developing the jurisprudence on enforcement of foreign judgment in Nigeria in accordance with the essence of reciprocity of judgments. This will improve the prospects of Nigeria as a business destination and enhance the growth of her economy.

Clifford Chance 

Clifford Chance Continental European managing partner steps down

Clifford Chance has found a replacement for Continental Europe managing partner and former leadership contender Yves Wehrli.

Charles Adams
Charles Adams
Yves Wherli
Yves Wherli

The firm has pegged former Italy managing partner Charles Adams to return to the European platform after spending two years in its New York office, where he worked at growing Clifford Chance’s Americas practice. He is still head of the firm’s Italy finance and capital markets group.

From 2007 until 2014, Adams was the office managing partner of Clifford Chance’s Italian practice, and was a Continental European representative on the firm’s management committee between 2013 and 2014.

Initially appointed for a four-year term, Adams stood down earlier than originally expected when the then-new managing partner Matthew Layton disbanded the management committee as part of his new strategy.

At the time of his initial election in 2013, Layton beat off competition from Wehrli and real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie for the top job.

Wehrli, who had completed the maximum number of terms in his role, is expected to continue as Paris office managing partner after the change.

Adams said: “Nurturing our position in this strategically important region is a priority for the firm. That includes ensuring that we forge ever-stronger bonds with our colleagues in other regions, notably in the Americas and Asia Pacific.

“Europe’s future is intertwined with that of the wider global economy, and we are better placed than any other law firm to help clients capitalise successfully on the opportunities that brings.  It is an exciting time to take on this role and I look forward to working with our teams globally to reinforce our position as market-leaders.”

HSF has re-elected James Palmer to a second term

erbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has re-elected James Palmer to a second term as the firm’s chair and senior partner until 2021.

He faced competition from Mark Shillito who stepped down from his position as UK/US head of disputes to challenge Palmer.

Shillito’s resignation as practice head came as a shock and opened the door for Damien Byrne Hill to step up to his former position.

James Palmer HSF
James Palmer

The race was a markedly different contest from Palmer’s first time running. In 2014, four challengers rivalled him for the role with ex-HSF Australian deputy senior partner Mark Crean falling to Palmer at the final hurdle.

Crean left the firm one year later to join Jones Day as the firm’s head of M&A. Of the four who stood in the 2014 election, only Palmer remains at the firm.

Palmer said: “I look forward to working with all our colleagues and our leadership team in pursuing our strategy and ambitions. The firm continues to perform well in our markets globally and remains superbly placed to strengthen still further.”

Palmer’s reappointment will not be the only election at the firm in 2018.

HSF partners voted to overhaul its lockstep at the end of last year, though a vote will be held to expand its remuneration committee. An annual vote will also take place as the firm looks to fill up to four spots on its global council.

Palmer sits on the remuneration committee alongside HSF CEO Mark Rigotti who said changes to to the committee will be central to its strategic shift in focus toward Asia and EMEA.

On Palmer’s election win, Rigotti said: “The re-election of James will bring a degree of stability and continuity to the implementation of our strategy.  I look forward to continuing to work closely with James in our vision to become a world class professional services business bringing together the very best people to achieve the best results for our clients.”

Since joining legacy Herbert Smith in 1986, Palmer has spent his entire career at the firm as a corporate lawyer. He was made up to partner in 1994, taking over as global head of corporate in 2010.

His key clients at the firm include FTSE100 heavyweights BP, British American Tobacco and National Grid.

The announcement follows quickly on from real estate partner Jeremy Walden taking over from Don Rowlands as head of the UK/EMEA practice.

He will work alongside David Sinn who heads up the Australia/Asia real estate team.

Credit Suisse finalises new global legal panel

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has finalised its new global legal panel, with four firms winning places on the roster.

Ashurst, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Latham & Watkins have all been appointed to the line-up, which replaces its EMEA and UK panels.

In addition to the global panel, which is expected to handle the bulk of the bank’s work, Credit Suisse has also appointed a number of firms to sub-panels covering practices such as employment, litigation, M&A and securities work. It also has a separate panel for Switzerland, and countries in Asia where it may require specific local expertise.

Credit Suisse’s Zurich-based corporate general counsel Julian Gooding led the review, with the global panel expected to run for two to three years.

The move to a global panel structure is in line with wider organisational changes at Credit Suisse, with the bank moving away from regional divisions in 2016.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: “The driving principle of how we now run our panels is to manage our firm relationships in a holistic way more consistent with our organisational strcture. We’re happy that what we’ve put in place is a more coherent way of managing firms – we want to make sure all parties get the most out of the relationships by managing them globally.”

The bank’s review had been delayed by several months, with firms initially hoping to have heard if they had been successful in August last year.

Confirmation of Credit Suisse’s panel comes after fellow banks Societe Generale and Santander recently completed their international legal panels.

Societe Generale appointed DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright and Mayer Brown among its ‘preferred’ advisers.

The French bank’s panel comprises 12 full-service firms – split into eight ‘preferred’ firms and four ‘selected’ firms – alongside six others appointed specifically to handle large litigation and tax advice.

Santander, meanwhile, has agreed terms with 46 firms, understood to include global firms DLA Piper, Baker McKenzie and Dentons, and US firms including Latham & Watkins and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Jones Day private equity star exits for White & Case

Jones Day private equity heavyweight partner Mike Weir has joined White & Case in London.

Weir, who was at Jones Day for over four years, will join his new firm today. Prior to Jones Day, he worked at Berwin Leighton Paisner for almost four years, making partner in 2012. He also worked at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher from 2005 to 2010 as an associate and was at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for three years before that.

White & Case said that Weir will be “instrumental” in helping to build out other key investor segments, including alternative capital providers, family offices and real estate.

His practice focuses on advising technology and real estate private equity bodies, such as state-owned investment funds that invest in stocks and bonds, large institutional real estate funds and buyout funds that purchase companies.

This is the first hire since the exits of private equity co-head Richard Youle and partner Katja Butler, who joined Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Weir’s hire plays into the firm’s 2020 strategy, which White & Case executive committee member Oliver Brettle says includes reinforcing the firm’s private equity industry group and global M&A practice with “leading teams in strategic regions, particularly the UK”.

New hires in line with the firm’s 2020 strategy include Ropes & Gray finance partner Chris McGarry, while Linklaters senior associate Daniel Turgel also joined at the start of the year to take advantage of the Israeli corporate market. Other new joiners in 2018 include Ashurst corporate partner Dominic Ross and Weil Gotshal & Manges litigation partner Hannah Field-Lowes.

White & Case’s financial results, released last month, show a 13 per cent jump in revenue over 2017 to $328m (£236.8m) in line with double digit growth globally.

Baker McKenzie opens office in Los Angeles

Baker McKenzie has opened a new office in Los Angeles with the hire of a five-partner team from Hogan Lovells.

Hogan Lovells litigation partner Barry Thompson, employment partner Robin Samuel and litigator Joe Ward will launch the firm’s office in the city.

Thompson was an equity partner at legacy Hogan’s Los Angeles office for six years, and led the firm’s California labour and employment practice. Samuel was an office administrative partner at Hogan Lovells for almost eight years, appointed after the legacy firm joined with Lovells. He was a partner at Hogan & Hartson for almost nine years before that, and was an associate at Crosby Heafey Roach & May.

Ward was a senior attorney at Hogan Lovells for over three years, having joined from Jones Day in 2014 where he was an associate.

The remaining two partners, litigators Mark Goodman and Ethan Miller, will be based in the San Francisco office.

Goodman was at Hogan Lovells for over five years, having joined from Squire Patton Boggs in 2012. Miller was at Hogan Lovells for over five years, having joined from Squire Sanders in 2012 where he was a partner since 2004.

Bakers North America managing partner Colin Murray said: “Given our growing presence on the West Coast, and the fact that we already had attorney teams living and working in Southern California, we are solidifying our roots in a market where many California-based Fortune 500 companies have a presence. Los Angeles is also an increasingly important gateway for our clients in Asia.”

Linklaters makes senior addition to its Milan office

Linklaters has made a senior addition to its Milan office, with the hire of corporate veteran Roberto Casati from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Casati will join the magic circle firm as a partner next week, in a move that will bolster its office in the northern Italian business and financial hub.

Prior to joining Cleary in 2004, Casati was Italian senior partner at Allen & Overy (A&O) and one of three co-heads of the magic circle firm’s global corporate management committee.

That move made waves in the Italian legal market at the time, as he joined Cleary as its first partner based full-time in the city, with the deal putting him at the top of the US firm’s lockstep.

Casati advised on a raft of major deals while at Cleary. Months after joining from A&O he secured a headline mandate for the firm, advising Italian industrial group Finmeccanica on its £1bn purchase of GKN’s stake in AgustaWestland.

During the global financial crash in 2008, he co-led the firm’s team advising Italian bank UniCredit on its deal to secure up to €6.6bn of funding, while in 2013 he advised top Italian football club Inter Milan on its takeover by a consortium of Indonesian investors.

Casati told Legal Week: “Linklaters is a perfect platform and I think their Italian practice is excellent. I hope I can bring a good level of seniority to the offering.”

Last year, Linklaters deepened its Italian offering when it opened a lower cost legal centre in the southern Italian city of Lecce. Alongside Milan, the magic circle firm also has a base in Rome.

Other international firms to make inroads in the country last year include DWF, which opened a Milan office with the hire of a 16-strong team from local independent Pavia & Ansaldo. Herbert Smith Freehills is also set to open an office in Milan this year, on the back of the hire of Simmons & Simmons Italy dispute resolution and intellectual property head Laura Orlando.

However, a number of law firms have downsized their presence in Italy in recent years, with firms including AshurstSimmons & Simmons and McDermott Will & Emery all closing bases in Rome during the past three years.

Cleary Gottlieb Rome partner Giuseppe Scassellati-Sforzolini said: “We thank Roberto for his significant contributions to the development of our Italian corporate practice during the past 14 years, and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

Bryan Cave posts falling revenue and partner profits before BLP merger

Bryan Cave saw both revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) dip in its last full financial year before its merger with Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), a deal the US firm is expecting to turn its financial performance around.

The St Louis-based firm firm saw gross revenue dip 2.5% to $592.6m in 2017 as PEP fell nearly 7% to $804,000. Revenue per lawyer remained flat at $700,000.

Bryan Cave’s top-line figure has now fallen four straight years by a total of 7.8% since it topped out at $643m in 2013.

A firm spokeswoman issued a brief statement noting that Bryan Cave is “very pleased” with the “extremely strong” financials.

A decrease in mortgage litigation work and slightly shrinking headcount (down 2.6% to 847 lawyers) partly accounted for the gross revenue dip, the statement said.

“We expect the pending combination with BLP to grow revenues and boost profitability as a direct result of our improved ability to provide our clients with broader and deeper legal services,” said Bryan Cave in its statement.

This year will be the last set of financial figures reported by Bryan Cave before it becomes Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). That merger is expected to create a combined firm of some 1,600 lawyers with more than $900m in gross revenue.

A firm with $900m in gross revenue last year would have ranked 37th in the most recent Am Law 100 list and 44th in the Global 100 rankings, directly between McDermott Will & Emery and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in both tables.

For its part, BLP saw revenue rise 7% to £272m (roughly $376m at current exchange rates) during 2016-17, its last full financial year, as PEP fell nearly 8% to £630,000 ($871.000).

Bryan Cave last year trimmed its non-equity partner ranks by 6.2% down to 166. The firm’s equity partner ranks grew by 2.5% to 204, up from 199 the year before, helping to explain some of the PEP decrease.

BLP’s partners will be interested in that figure, as the combination they are entering into is one of the few fully financially integrated transatlantic law firm mergers. In an earlier interview, Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard said the single-profit pool structure made it easier to reward partners for working together across geographies than a Swiss verein construction.

“In our mind it provides the incentives to find the best people in the firm to service the clients’ needs,” Pritchard said. “And we think at the end of the day that is a better way to operate. We are all in it together.”

Allen and Overy logo

Allen & Overy litigation chief stands down after 10 years

Allen & Overy (A&O) has made its first change in litigation leadership for over a decade, with global head Tim House handing over to Karen Seward.

The move follows House’s appointment last year as A&O’s US senior partner. House relocated to New York for the role, but said he would continue as the firm’s global litigation chief returning to London on a monthly basis.

He put his name forward in the firm’s management election race in 2016, but lost out to senior partner Wim Dejonghe.

The global litigation head role will be taken on by employment partner Karen Seward, who joined the magic circle firm in 2000 from Pinsent Masons.

She was tasked with building an employment practice at A&O, which now consists of eight partners in London.

It is the first major leadership shift at the helm of A&O’s litigation department, which has been run by House for over 10 years.

Seward, who will start her new role in May this year, said: “Tim will be handing over the reins of an incredibly successful practice.

“Tim has brought us a very long way over the past ten years, while revenues have tripled. The core values he personified, and that have underpinned that success, will remain and we will continue to seek out the most talented, diverse and ambitious litigators for even greater success.”

House said: “Karen has an exceptional practice advising boards and institutions on their most difficult senior executive and employment issues, has excellent relationships with key clients of the firm, and has a bold vision for the future strategic direction of the litigation practice.

“Karen will be a formidable leader for a changing world.”