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Ashurst’s woes continue as four finance partners quit for US firms

Ashurst‘s string of departures continues with Paul Hastings picking up a trio of structured finance partners while Latham & Watkins has appointed financial regulatory partner Nicola Higgs.

In a bid to boost its finance practice Paul Hastings has picked up Michael Smith, Diala Minott and Cameron Saylor from the beleaguered Ashurst. Smith focuses on structured finance, securitisation, capital markets and derivatives while Minott is a partner in the firm’s securities and derivatives practice with a particular expertise in Luxembourg regulated credit funds. A longstanding partner at Ashurst, Smith is cited by The Legal 500 as ‘a key adviser on CLOs, credit funds and regulatory issues.’

Saylor, who is also a partner in the structured finance practice of the securities and derivatives group, joined Ashurst in January 2015 from Clifford Chance and specialises in structured finance and securitisation, with a particular emphasis on CLOs.

Meanwhile Latham has appointed Higgs, who specialises in advising banks, investment firms, asset managers and insurance firms in relation to a range of regulatory conduct issues.

Higgs had worked closely with former Ashurst head of financial services regulation Rob Moulton who left Ashurst for Latham in June. Higgs had joined Ashurst in 2010 from Nabarro as did Moulton.

Paul Hastings chair Seth Zachary said the firm’s global finance practice was integral to the growth of the London office. Paul Hastings is currently expanding in London and has taken on additional office space in 201 Bishopsgate.

Ashurst has seen about 30 exits in the past 18 months, including restructuring partner Diane Roberts who moved to Reed Smith in July, equity capital markets partner Jonathan Parry and disputes specialist Mark Clarke who left for White & Case and financial institutions partner James Perry who joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm also lost its chief financial officer Brian Dunlop last month.

Ashurst has also delayed its quarterly partner distributions for August, with one former partner telling Legal Business it was the second delayed payment this year after a postponement in February. A management memo sent round the partnership said the firm is well ahead of budget and on target for the next financial year, but quarterly distributions would be held back.

Exits and delayed quarterly payments have come amid a 19% drop in profits per equity partner down to £603,000 from £747,000 during the 2015/16 financial year. Ashurst also posted a 10% drop in turnover to £505m.

But the firm’s management team are confident they can get things back on track, with hopes significant lateral investment will pay off for the firm across the next financial year. New arrivals include TMT duo Nick Elverston and Amanda Hale from Herbert Smith Freehills, real estate partners Darren Rogers, Patrick Williams and Robert Andrews from King & Wood Mallesons, and with DLA Piper’s international arbitration head Matthew Saunders. RBS head of EMEA loan markets Dave Rome also joined the firm’s banking practice, moving into a newly-created position of strategic director of corporate lending.

Ashurst said in a statement it had a strong global finreg offering and was in the process of adding to its London team. It also added the firm would maintain its broad structured finance capability.