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‘Unique in our field’: Latham taps Linklaters for fourth City regulatory partner in quick time

Latham & Watkins is ramping up its ambitions to expand beyond its traditional transactional heartlands in the City after tapping the Magic Circle for another financial regulation partner.

The US giant has made its fourth regulatory lateral hire in the City in less than two years with the hire of Linklaters’ London partner and former Asia head of financial regulation Carl Fernandes.

‘No-one in London has ever built a regulatory practice of this size in this time-scale,’ an excited co-chair of Latham’s financial institutions Rob Moulton (pictured) told Legal Business. He added the firm plans to have 17 regulatory lawyers in the City by the summer, giving it ‘the critical mass and coverage we need’.

Moulton described Fernandes, who joined the Magic Circle firm as an associate in 2001, made partner in 2007 and was then based in Hong for five years before returning to London, as a ‘highly respected operator’ in the industry. Fernandes has advised banks and asset managers on regulatory issues in Europe and Asia, including on PPI compensations in 2013.

Latham’s assault on the City’s regulatory space started with the hire of Moulton himself from Ashurst in the summer or 2016. The US giant returned to Ashurst shortly afterwards to hire Nicola Higgs and then added David Berman from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan one year later.

Moulton said while there were ‘lots of good firms in the States’ that do regulatory work, Latham’s City practice was the largest by a distance for a US firm. ‘We have a practice with scale and credibility on both sides of the Atlantic, which is unique in our field. Our competitors in New York don’t have the presence in London that we have.’

The US giant became the first firm to ever report revenues over $3bn for 2017 earlier this year, before US rival Kirkland & Ellis took its crown to become the world’s highest-grossing firm.

But Latham’s London practice outpaced the firm’s global performance: while globally the firm hiked revenues 8.5% to $3.06bn, its City outpost posted a double-digit percentage income growth and broke the $300m mark.

With the firm’s City push beyond its traditional heartlands in the City continuing, the pressure on the UK elite is only likely to increase.