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Q&A: John Quinn talks competition, class action and China

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan was the talk of the town when it took on some of the world’s largest banks in post-crisis related litigation. The concept paid off for a firm which this year posted revenues just over $1bn with profits per equity partner reaching just under $5m – the second highest recorded in the Global 100. However, as crisis-related disputes reach their tail-end, founder and managing partner John Quinn (pictured) speaks to Legal Business about the firm’s current growth plans.

Now that the financial-crisis litigation has pretty much ended, what is Quinn Emanuel doing to fill this hole?  

There are a lot of other areas of practice that continue to be really busy – white collar, investigations, and regulatory work being one; competition and antitrust being another. Plus in the financial area, we are involved in several other types of claims against banks for competition/rate fixing claims; Libor, FX [foreign exchange], CDS [credit default swaps] fixing; gold rate fixing. We also filed a case regarding the manipulation of the auction for US treasuries.

A common view in the market was that the firm’s business model was unsustainable and would struggle to maintain momentum once this work ends. What would you say to this?

We weren’t defending, we were bringing claims against banks related to real estate mortgage backed securities, where we collected over $25bn. But banks can always be counted on to push the envelope and engage in activities, which will give rise to new types of claims.

The firm launched in Shanghai in summer this year. How is the practice going and what can we expect to see here in the next 12 months?    

Our office is led there by Sam Williamson, the only former US prosecutor who is fluent in Mandarin and practicing in China today. We will be doing white-collar, regulatory work in China and across Asia; helping Western companies with problems in China and their repercussions in the West; and helping Chinese companies with problems in the West.  

To what extent will the slowing Chinese economy shift the firm’s aspirations in Asia?  

I think that will mean more work for us, more disputes, more regulatory issues, and more change.

What does the Consumer Rights Act coming into force this October in London mean for the firm’s London office? 

Certainly we expect to see a lot of competition class actions in London.

With firms like Jenner & Block and Scott+Scott launching and expanding in London, what is Quinn Emanuel doing to remain competitive and offer something new to clients?    

We have been here for seven years and have recruited a top notch, market leading team. These firms may be competitors someday but I really don’t seem them as competition now.