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Flight to quality as big-spending JPMorgan signs entire Magic Circle to EMEA panel

Several London-headquartered law firms, including the entire Magic Circle, have won places on JPMorgan Chase’s panel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) following a review.

The review was finalised last year when prominent UK finance counsel Piers Le Marchant served as EMEA general counsel (GC) and the bank was understood to have requested firms consider taking fee cuts of at least 2% to qualify.

One of the most lucrative legal clients in the world, the investment banking giant has awarded places to Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance (CC), Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, CMS Cameron McKenna, Eversheds and Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF).

Freshfields has led for the bank on Forex-related probes, while CC advised the bank last summer alongside Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered on the $500m African sovereign Eurobond issue by Gabon.

Several City firms known to have previously acted for the bank in Europe, including Ashurst, Simmons & Simmons and Herbert Smith Freehills, are not on the current roster.

Firms that work closely with JPMorgan, which reported firmwide global legal expenses of $3bn and $2.9bn in 2015 and 2014 respectively, are signed up to the bank’s overall external counsel policy on fees, which includes a centralised process involving the in-house legal team closely negotiating standard rates.

EMEA GC John Tribolati (pictured), who succeeded Le Marchant in the role last May, said: ‘[The policy] brings consistency to our arrangements and often better suits individual circumstances and projects, particularly if the nature of the work is very chunky in the short term.’

The bank has provided a windfall of transactional, regulatory and compliance instructions for law firms. Major corporate work in 2015 included JPMorgan advising on Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $117bn mega-merger with brewer SABMiller, as well as Royal Dutch Shell’s $81.5bn takeover of BG Group.

Tribolati would not confirm which US advisers sat on the EMEA panel, though firms known to frequently receive instructions on European mandates include Davis Polk & Wardwell, Shearman & Sterling, Mayer Brown and White & Case.

Other major bank panel news of late included The Royal Bank of Scotland’s recent review, which saw CC, Linklaters and A&O win appointments to its roster for the next three years.

Read more about JPMorgan Chase’s John Tribolati in his client profile here.