Legal Business Blogs

A&O bullish on US investment drive with hire of federal enforcement firepower in DC

Allen & Overy  has again thrown itself behind its strategy to accelerate investment in its US business after fruitless merger talks with O’Melveny & Myers, having hired a pair of federal enforcement partners from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in Washington DC. 

The addition of Billy Jacobson and Jonathan Lopez, both veterans of the fraud section of the US Department of Justice, is another shot in the arm for the City giant’s lofty stateside ambition to redouble investment in DC and New York at a time of leadership transition for the firm. It also comes at a time when firms are scaling back strategic recruitment as the global coronavirus pandemic unfolds. 

The hires take place as Gareth Price prepares to take the managing partner baton from Andrew Ballheimer on 1 May to join incumbent senior partner Wim Dejonghe at the helm.  The hires are in line with Ballheimer’s vow last September to approach US investments with ‘more focus and speed of execution’ than the firm had previously delivered. 

Jacobson and Lopez joined Orrick in 2014, with the former having served five years at oil and gas services multinational Weatherford International as senior vice president, co-general counsel, and chief compliance officer. Jacobson had been a partner at Kirkland & Ellis and Fulbright & Jaworski and in his latest tenure at the DOJ was responsible for half of all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations as assistant chief for FCPA enforcement. 

Before joining Orrick, Lopez worked at the DOJ for 11 years, with roles including its inaugural deputy chief of the bank integrity unit, working on matters including anti-money laundering cases involving HSBC and MoneyGram. The addition of Jacobson and Lopez brings the DC office’s partner count to 13.  

A&O has had mixed fortunes on the US front recently, adding US capability in London in the form of financial services regulation counsel Knox McIlwain as a partner from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in September, while the following month losing New York leveraged finance partners Alan Rockwell and Michael Chernick to Shearman & Sterling. 

The failed deal with O’Melveny also encouraged some corporate partners to shop around at US rivals, with the departure from London of respected corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom only 10 days after the merger collapsed seen as significant collateral fallout.