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US expansion: Clifford Chance boosts Washington office with Bingham structured finance team

Clifford Chance has recruited a five-strong team from beleaguered US firm Bingham McCutchen to its Washington DC office, led by partners Robert Gross and William Cejudo, in a bid to enhance its US structured finance and real estate finance offering.

Gross advises investment banks, hedge funds, issuers, sellers and investors on structured and asset-based financings, including publicly registered and privately placed securitisations and re-securitisations. He is also experienced in cross-border securitisations and emerging markets and in securitising UK and Australian mortgage loans.

Cejudo focuses primarily on the tax aspects of structured finance transactions, including distressed asset funds, residential and commercial mortgage-backed securitisations, asset-backed securitisations, debt re-packaging, catastrophe bonds, and credit-default swaps. He previously worked in the financial institutions and products division of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, where he focused on tax-exempt and taxable financings and other financial products.

The new arrivals bring to the number of Clifford Chance partners in the United States to 69, with Gross joining the corporate practice and Cejudo expanding the tax, pensions and employment team.

The firm’s US leadership recently told Legal Business of its intention to upscale its offering in the Americas, and is actively looking to recruit fresh talent across all levels, from associate to partner level. Such growth, management insisted, would be achieved without breaking away from the firm’s traditional remuneration system. On the new arrivals to the US capital, Americas regional managing partner Evan Cohen said: ‘We’ve been working for some time to bring Bob, Will and their team to Clifford Chance. They are top-notch lawyers whose arrivals broaden our structured finance capabilities, increase our US footprint, and present valuable collaborative opportunities in connection with our industry-leading REITs practice. Their expertise reinforces areas where we are already strong, while also adding new dimensions to our practice, and we’re very pleased to bring them on board.’

The firm’s Americas corporate practice area leader David Brinton added: ‘We believe that unfolding developments in the US residential housing market are generating significant investment opportunities for the firm’s clients. In the aftermath of the US financial crisis, the residential securitisation and finance industry has undergone major changes. There are few lawyers like Bob and Will who are on the cutting edge of that market.’

For Boston-bred Bingham, the departures are indicative of recent problems faced by the firm. Last week saw the firm complete a ‘transaction’ with Morgan Lewis & Bockius to move 226 partners and more than 525 other lawyers, legal professionals and staff move over from Bingham. Morgan Lewis’ partnership voted on 14 November in favour of a mass team hire as opposed to a merger or rescue deal between the two firms. The deal left Bingham with a smattering of lawyers and several office leases, and it is unclear at present what remaining partners intend to do.