Merger Talks Encourage 22 Partners To Jump Ship At Bingham McCutchen

Not a small number of partners heading for pastures anew. Legal Business mag has the story


Twenty two partners have left Bingham McCutchen to join Akin Gump’s offices in London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt.

Eighteen of the 22 outgoing partners will join Akin Gump’s London office. One partner will join the firm’s office in Frankfurt, while another partner will be based in both London and Frankfurt.

In Asia, two partners – corporate lawyer Charles Rogers and restructuring specialist Naomi Moore – will join Akin Gump’s office in Hong Kong.

Out of the 22 partners, 10 specialise in financial restructuring, four in finance, two in litigation, two in corporate, two in financial regulatory, one in tax and one in antitrust matters.

The new financial restructuring hires bring Bingham’s European and Asian financial restructuring practices together with Akin Gump’s U.S. financial restructuring practice. The team from Bingham McCutchen recently advised bondholders of three Icelandic banks when the banks failed in 2008, acted for bondholders of Suntech, which was one of China’s largest solar panel makers, and also acted for senior lenders to Germany’s Kloeckner Pentaplast on their respective debt restructurings.

The incoming financial dispute resolution practice from Bingham will work with Akin Gump’s European dispute resolution team that specialises in litigation and arbitration in the oil and gas, power and telecommunications sectors.

“This will be transformative in enhancing our brand as a leading global firm,” said Kim Koopersmith, chair of Texas-founded Akin Gump.

The exodus marks the largest group of lawyers who have left the 123-year-old Bingham in recent history and comes after the firm has been in merger negotiations with larger Philadelphia-based Morgan Lewis. Its talks with Morgan Lewis extend back at least to July.

The departing group includes London-based James Roome, the co-chair of Bingham’s global financial restructuring group, a member of the firm’s executive board and managing partner of the firm’s London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong offices.

He advises noteholders, such as Atrium European Real Estate, Concordia Bus, Damovo Group, in the workout and restructuring of distressed bonds and notes in Europe, and lenders in leveraged buyout restructurings, including Alliance Medical, Bulgaria Telecom and Findus.

It could not be immediately determined how the departures would affect the deal with Morgan Lewis, but people familiar with Bingham have said Roome was one of the most senior members of the firm, with one of the most lucrative practices.

Leading up to the exodus, Bingham leaders had maintained the departures were factored into the proposed combination with Morgan Lewis, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bingham managing partner Steven Browne sent an email to lawyers on Tuesday night acknowledging the departures and saying he expected associates and staff to follow, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Reuters.

“While news coverage will sensationalise the departures’ impact, we acted quickly and aggressively some time ago to address the possibility of these departures,” said Browne. “We carefully modeled the financial implications, and we are confident that we remain on track to exceed last year’s results.”