handshake deal

Kraft Heinz names New York Gibson Dunn partner as global GC

Rashida La Lande will join the US packaged food conglomerate in January

Kraft Heinz has appointed Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Rashida La Lande as its new global general counsel and corporate secretary. The New York corporate lawyer will join the company in mid-January at its Chicago offices.

La Lande, who was not available for comment, replaces general counsel Jim Savina, who the company said in the announcement of the new GC’s hire was leaving to “pursue other opportunities”.

La Lande joined Gibson Dunn in 2000 and focused her practice on complex commercial deals, including mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, private equity transactions and joint ventures. She represented Kraft Foods in its 2010 acquisition of Cadbury. More recently, she represented Verizon in its $4.5bn (£3.4bn) acquisition of Yahoo, which closed in June.


US law firm launches probe into MultiChoice, news channels saga

MultiChoice has been accused of paying millions to the SABC and ANN7 in exchange for political influence in the ongoing digital migration matter.

JOHANNESBURG – The MultiChoice saga has now attracted an international investigation and a possible class action lawsuit while Icasa is still deciding whether or not to probe the multi-million rand payments to news channels.

MultiChoice has been accused of paying millions to the SABC and ANN7, formerly owned by the Guptas, in exchange for political influence in the ongoing digital migration matter.

Naspers, which owns a large portion of MultiChoice, issued a statement last Friday, saying the persistent baiting for the group to intervene in the affairs of MultiChoice is not conducive to an open democracy.

Shares in Naspers were down 4% on Tuesday.

US law firm Pomerantz has launched a probe on behalf of shareholders.

TV critic and journalist Thinus Ferreira said: “This law firm is now doing their own investigation and going straight to Naspers and they’re asking them whether they want to join the possible class action lawsuit in America. Naspers is obviously an international company.”

Meanwhile, former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim says he has no doubt that Naspers and MultiChoice tried to sway government on the digital migration matter.

At the same time, African National Congress national executive committee member Jackson Mthembu says he supports calls for an independent investigation.

“Because if you want to benefit and you then want to influence government policy towards your benefit as a private citizen, or corporate citizen – indeed you might be trying to capture the state.”


US law firm Sedgwick announces closure in early January

US law firm Sedgwick has announced that it will close down in early January, following a string of partner departures and office closures.

“We have concluded that the best way to allow our lawyers to continue providing great service to our clients is by ceasing operations and moving to other excellent law firms,” the San Francisco-based firm said in a statement. “We are pleased that most of our lawyers and staff have opportunities with very fine firms.”

Two sources familiar with Sedgwick said a large number of lawyers and staff may be hired by Clyde & Co. One source said that representatives from the UK firm will be meeting with Sedgwick in the coming weeks to assess which of the firm’s lawyers and staff it will hire. Another source said that some Sedgwick employees would be out of a job as early as 1 December.

Michael Knoerzer, Clyde & Co’s New York managing partner and a member of the firm’s global management board, said his firm would not comment about potential acquisition targets.

Sedgwick managing partner Michael Healy, who assumed leadership of the firm in early 2015, did not immediately return a request for comment about its talks with Clydes, which earlier this week expanded into Malaysia.

In its statement, Sedgwick expressed pride in its lawyers and staff. “While this news deeply saddens all of us, we are very proud and appreciative of all those who helped make Sedgwick the great firm it has been since 1933,” the firm said. “From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our clients, attorneys and staff for everything you have done for us for decades, and we wish anyone who has ever crossed paths with this wonderful law firm the best and brightest future.”

From Austin, Texas, to Washington DC, and Chicago to New York, Sedgwick has seen a number of its offices dwindle or close this year. More recently, the firm has seen departures from its San Francisco headquarters.

The latest lawyers to leave the firm in San Francisco were partners Steven Roland and Randall Block, who this month joined local firm Burke Williams & Sorensen. Both ex-Sedgwick partners declined to comment about their decision to leave the reeling firm, which The American Lawyer reported in June had lost 20% of its revenue this year due to partner defections, an exodus that quickened after the January departures of 40 lawyers in New Jersey and Texas.

Roland had served in management positions at Sedgwick for more than 15 years, including leading the firm’s commercial litigation practice.

Other recent departures include appellate litigation partner Agelo Reppas in Chicago, who recently joined local firm BatesCarey. Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani also recruited Sedgwick civil litigation partner Kendra Canape in Irvine, California, while Bullivant Houser Bailey brought on Sedgwick products liability partner Rachel Tallon Reynolds in Seattle.

UK firm Kennedys has recruited six partners from Sedgwick in New York and Chicago in recent months, including New York and Chicago managing partners John Blancett and Eric Scheiner.

Sedgwick’s Bermuda associate Sedgwick Chudleigh also recently split from the faltering US firm to join Kennedys’ global network.

The departures have slashed Sedgwick’s headcount to fewer than 160 lawyers, a 39% drop from 12 months ago, according to data compiled by ALM Legal Intelligence. That is by far the largest fall in headcount among Am Law 200 firms during that period. Sedgwick has lost at least 49 partners, 60 associates and 19 counsel within the past year.


Clifford Chance New York partner Ed O’Callaghan departs

Clifford Chance New York white collar partner Ed O’Callaghan has left the firm to join the US Department of Justice.

O’Callaghan started his new role – as principal deputy assistant attorney general – today (13 November) in the DOJ’s National Security Division. He will responsible for helping to shape US national security and enforcement priorities.

He exits after six years, having joined in 2011 as a partner in the firm’s government investigations and white collar criminal defence practice.

Previously, O’Callaghan worked for US firm Nixon Peabody for just over two and half years, where he headed up the firm’s government investigations and white collar defence group.

Before that, he worked for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where he was co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit.

During his time with CC, he represented senior executives and officials of JP Morgan in connection with $6.2bn (£4.7bn) of trading losses in 2012; O’Callaghan acted for Achilles Macris, who was head of the London branch of JP Morgan’s chief investment office, where the trader nicknamed the “London Whale,” Bruno Iksil, worked.

He also acted for former top FIFA official Jeffrey Webb who was arrested for corruption charges in 2015. Webb, who pleaded guilty later that year, was among several officials arrested in 2015 on corruption charges following an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In addition, he helped secure a major win in Washington, DC for Dutch aerospace firm Fokker Services in 2014 in a case relating to alleged US sanctions violations.

A CC press spokesperson said: “Although he will be missed by our firm, this is a great opportunity for Ed as he returns to government service…We want to thank Ed for his many substantive contributions to our firm, notably in connection with high-profile global investigations.”

Appleby defends business model in leaked documents probe

Offshore giant Appleby has admitted that some of its clients’ data was “compromised” in a data security incident last year, but insists its practices and clients’ businesses are legitimate.

The fourth largest offshore law firm Appleby has come under the spotlight as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) launched an investigation into the business of the firm’s clients via leaked documents.

The ICIJ enquiries come following a data security breach in the Bermuda-based firm’s IT system in 2016 and concern the firm’s business and the activities conducted by some of its clients.

It is reported that a number of media organisations are preparing to release details of the leaks over the coming days.

Appleby issued a statement last night in response to the ICIJ allegations, although it did not specify what the allegations were.

“These enquiries have arisen from documents that journalists claim to have seen and involve allegations made against our business and the business conducted by some of our clients,” said the firm.

The firm said it took any allegation of wrongdoing “extremely seriously”, and found “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients” having investigated the allegations itself.

“We are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour,” said the statement.

“It is true that we are not infallible. Where we find that mistakes have happened we act quickly to put things right and we make the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities.”

In light of intensifying scrutiny on law firms’ cyber security and data protection systems, Appleby added that: “We are committed to protecting our clients’ data and we have reviewed our cyber security and data access arrangements following a data security incident last year which involved some of our data being compromised. These arrangements were reviewed and tested by a leading IT forensics team and we are confident that our data integrity is secure.”

The firm expressed the view that it was “disappointed” that the media may choose to publish material “obtained illegally” and said this may result in “exposing innocent parties to data protection breaches”.

“Having researched the ICIJ’s allegations we believe they are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector,” it concluded.

According to The Lawyer’s 2017 Offshore Top 30 report, Appleby is the fourth largest offshore law firm by number of lawyers. In 2016, it had 464 staff, including 223 fee-earners, 60 of whom are partners.

The firm has adjusted to being a stand­alone law firm following the disposal of its fiduciary business in December 2015. Following the sale, Michael O’Connell was re-elected to managing partner in January 2016 for a three-year term.

Bryan Cave and Proskauer increase London promotions for 2017

Bryan Cave and Proskauer Rose have promoted one and three lawyers to partner respectively in London.

Bryan Cave has made up corporate lawyer Andrew Hart, who joined the firm from legacy Finers Stephens Innocent in 2008.

After three years, Hart left to become a senior associate at Clayton Utz in Australia. He returned to Bryan Cave’s London office in 2013.

Hart is one of 13 lawyers promoted to Bryan Cave’s partnership this year. The other promotions are across the firm’s US offices.

Bryan Cave’s partner announcements comes at an important time for the firm, as it continues its merger talks with UK-headquartered Berwin Leighton Paisner.

The firm has not promoted a London lawyer since 2014, when commercial litigator Robert Dougans was made up.

Meanwhile, Proskauer Rose has announced a global promotions round of 14, with three making the cut in the City.

Funds lawyers Edward Lee and Andrew Shore have been made partner, along with corporate lawyer Liam Arthur.

Proskauer Rose last made a promotion in London two years ago when funds and tax partner Catherine Sear was elected.

Partner promotions in full

Bryan Cave

Andrew Hart, London, corporate
Kenneth Achenbach, Atlanta, regulatory
Amy Taylor Wilson, Atlanta, corporate
Karl Marschel, Chicago, real estate
Amy Simpson, Dallas, real estate
Desmonne Bennett, Denver, litigation
Julie Westcott O’Dell, Irvine, employment
Kamao Shaw, Irvine, finance
Alexander Walden, New York, IP
Jessica Edwards, St Louis, tax
Stefan Mallen St Louis, litigation
Michael Schwartz, St Louis, corporate
Megan Gajewski Barnhill, Washington, regulatory

Proskauer Rose

Camille Higonnet, Boston, funds
Matthew McBride, Boston private equity
Ehud Barak, New York, restructuring
Frank Saviano, New York, corporate
Chantel Febus, New York, investigations
Malcolm Hochenberg, New York, tax
Vincent Indelicato, New York, restructuring
Christopher Ahn, LA, corporate
Christopher Wu, LA< corporate

Liam Arthur, London, corporate
Edward Lee, London, funds
Andrew Shore, London, funds

Cedric Jacquelet, Paris, employment
Nicolas Léger, Paris, employment


DWF opens sixth office this year in Italy

DWF has opened its sixth office this year – this time hiring a three-partner team in Italy.

Three partners from Pavia e Ansaldo are joining DWF for the launch in Milan, along with 13 lawyers.

Corporate finance partner Michele Cicchetti will become managing partner of DWF’s Italian operations, joining alongside tax partner Tancredi Marino and M&A partner Luca Cuomo.

Real estate associate Daniele Zanni will also be joining the team as a partner.

DWF has launched six offices this year, including two new operations in Continental Europe. The firm opened in Berlin in March after hiring two lawyers from DLA Piper. It also launched its first office in France through a merger with four-partner Paris firm Heenan Paris.

In the Asia Pacific region, DWF also launched two offices in Melbourne and Brisbane through a combination with independent firm MVM Legal. DWF further opened in Singapore after hiring from Eversheds Sutherland’s practice.

As well as office launches, DWF has agreed several new associations with local firms. DWF announced an association with Saudi Arabian firm Harasani & Alkhamees in February, giving it offices in Riyadh and Jeddah.

There were a further trio of associations in South America, as DWF entered into a non-exclusive best friends arrangement with Vagedes & Associados in Argentina, Fabrega Molino in Panama and Duarte Garcia Abogados in Colombia.


KWM hires ex SJ Berwin partner for M&A boost

King & Wood Mallesons has hired former SJ Berwin Frankfurt head of corporate Michael Roos to join its German M&A practice.

reed smith

Reed Smith global managing partner Sandy Thomas re-elected

Reed Smith global managing partner Sandy Thomas has been reappointed to the role until 2021 after an uncontested election.

Thomas took over the role from Greg Jordan who stood down midway through a three-year term in October 2013.

He is the firm’s 11th eleventh managing partner in the firm’s 140-year history and has seen strong expansion since the beginning of his tenure.

The firm opened offices in Frankfurt in 2015 as well as ramping up operations in the firm’s Singapore office a year later. An office in Miami earlier this year rounded off the Reed Smith expansion in Thomas’s first spell in the job.

Reed Smith were, notably, one of the main beneficiaries of King & Wood Mallesons European downfall as the firm took more than 50 lawyers into its London, Frankfurt, Munich and Paris offices. Indeed, the firm’s London office won its first major refinancing work as a direct result of ex-KWM partner Delphine Currie in July.

Thomas said: “It is an honour and a privilege to serve as the firm’s global managing partner, and I appreciate the continued confidence of my partners. I am proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to further strategic growth focused on our five leading industry groups: financial industry, life sciences/healthcare, media and entertainment, energy and natural resources and shipping.”

The firm saw turnover decline for the second successive year in February falling 4 per cent from $1.23bn to $1.1bn. Profit per equity partner stayed largely static at $1.1bn but Thomas said the firm had outperformed expectations after a 5 per cent reduction in the headcount at the firm in 2016.

Thomas said: “Fewer lawyers is naturally going to have an effect on revenue. We’re trying to manage our headcount, which is a global endeavour. The market is characterised by relatively static demand and firms need to focus on this.”

The firm currently has more than 1,700 lawyers worldwide spread over 27 offices and was one of the first firms to pilot the Mansfield Rule requiring a minimum of 30 per cent of the leadership, equity partner promotions and lateral hires to be women and lawyers of colour.


Gordon Dadds to go public following reverse takeover

London’s Gordon Dadds is set to become the UK’s newest listed law firm following a share offer by Work Group.

The offer, which constitutes a reverse takeover, values Gordon Dadds at £18.75m. Work Group also intends to raise up to £20m via a placing, with the proceeds used to repay borrowings (which currently stand at around £3.5m), fund acquisitions and provide working capital. Gordon Dadds is expected to list on AIM in August.

Gordon Dadds has carved out a reputation as one of the UK’s most acquisitive law firms in recent years. As last year’s UK 200 report highlighted, the firm’s growth has been underpinned by a string of acquisitions including that of Jeffrey Green Russell following a pre-pack administration in October 2015 as well as those of Davenport Lyons and litigation and corporate firm Harris Cartier.

The firm has also branched out into other advisory services. In June 2016 Gordon Dadds launched GD Financial Markets, a management consultancy providing a range of services such as advisory, business consulting, solution integration and managed services to capital markets clients.

In 2015/16 Gordon Dadds, which brands itself as a legal and professional services firm, posted a revenue of £20.2m and an average revenue per lawyer of £238,000. Gordon Dadds’s turnover for 2016/17 stood at £23.16m, with a net profit of £2.2m and average profit per equity partner of £748,000. Top of equity was £1.7m.