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Latham strikes again: US firm takes Slaughters finance partner Warna-kula-suriya

In what is arguably the most high-profile partner exit from Slaughter and May in recent history, Latham & Watkins has hired the Magic Circle firm’s former head of structured finance Sanjev Warna-kula-suriya in the City.

Warna-kula-suriya, who is listed as one of the 35 leading individuals for derivatives and structured products work in the City, joins Latham after nearly three decades at the Magic Circle firm.

His appointment comes just four days after Latham sealed the arrival of Allen & Overy’s Stephen Kensell, one of London’s most high-profile banking banking lawyers and a recent contender to become the Magic Circle firm’s next senior partner before being pipped to the post by Wim Dejonghe in March.

Having made partner in 1997, Warna-kula-suriya has built up a strong practice advising on capital markets, derivatives, restructuring, securitisation and structured finance work. He counts the likes of Deutsche Bank, Nordic bank Nordea and US private equity giants Apollo Management and Fortress Investment Group as clients.

While securitised financial products, such as RMBS, CMBS, CLOs and Synthetic CDOs, fell out of fashion following the financial crisis in 2008 – they have returned to the financial playbook in recent years following a heavy rebrand. Indeed, with banks keen to offload chunks of their residential mortgage-backed security portfolios, Warna-kula-suriya led a team from Slaughter and May that advised Deutsche Bank on the £396m sale of residential mortgage loans in March to Rochester Mortgages, a subsidiary of OneSavings Bank.

‘Sanjev’s technical prowess and deep market knowledge places him among a select group of practitioners at the vanguard of the European structured finance market,’ said Witold Balaban, global co-chair of Latham & Watkins’ financial institutions group. ‘He has an exceptional reputation in the City and he will play a key role in the continued expansion of our capabilities in offering financial institution clients an integrated top tier global platform for their cross-border transactional needs.’

Partner exits are something of a rarity at Slaughter and May, the UK’s most profitable law firm, but have become more frequent of late with the firm’s former head of derivatives Mark Dwyer departing for DLA Piper at the end of last year and long-serving tax partner Graham Iversen leaving in September 2014 to join Greenberg Traurig Maher as head of its London tax practice.

The move shows that even Slaughter and May is not immune from the advances of Latham & Watkins, which has driven its international expansion through its strong finance and private equity capability, after a string of raids on the Magic Circle.

Kensell and Warna-kula-suriya are the latest in a long line of high-profile hires for a rampant Latham, with the firm landing rising arbitration star Sophie Lamb from Debevoise & Plimpton, restructuring partner Simon Baskerville and financial regulatory partner Rob Moulton from Ashurst and real estate finance specialists Jeremy Trinder and Quentin Gwyer this year.