Legal Business

Life During Law: Tihir Sarkar

Life During Law: Tihir Sarkar

I grew up in the Midlands in the ̒80s. It was hard hit by the recession. My dad lost his job as an engineer, working for Smiths Industries, which supplied the car industry. It was the deindustrialisation of large parts of the UK. My father was a businessman and entrepreneurial. He became self-employed, started his own printing business, but it was certainly not stable.

I became a lawyer because I wanted a regular job. There were no lawyers in our family. It wasn’t a profession that was accessible or easy to understand from my background. Growing up in the ethnic community in Birmingham, second generation, the only other options on the table were being a doctor, a dentist or a pharmacist and I definitely didn’t want to be any of those!

Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – International Arbitration Team of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – International Arbitration Team of the Year

After much back-and-forth between the judges in a keenly contested category, we are now delighted to reveal the winner of International Arbitration Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

The winner of this award demonstrated pre-eminent advice in a single matter, be that acting for private corporates, investors, state-owned enterprises or states themselves in international commercial arbitration or investment treaty arbitration.




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Winner – Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

It is not often you secure one of the largest commercial arbitration awards ever made, but that is exactly what Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton achieved in 2019, making the firm the standout contender for this year’s category.

Headed by disputes partner Jonathan Kelly, along with litigation and investigations partner James Brady, Cleary successfully concluded a four-and-a-half-year battle for Brazilian mining group Vale concerning allegations of fraud and bribery against its mining partner in Guinea, BSG Resources (BSGR). The matter was resolved with a remarkable $2bn victory for Vale after related legal proceedings took place in the US, UK and Switzerland.

‘Cleary fought like tigers on Vale’s behalf to prove BSGR’s fraud,’ said Thiago Mucury Cardoso, legal counsel at Vale. ‘Vale’s good name and reputation was completely vindicated’.

Vale accused BSGR of engaging in bribery to obtain mining licences in Guinea, a share of which it then fraudulently sold to Vale. With Cleary leading the claim, The London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) ruled in favour of Vale, despite numerous efforts from BSGR to stymie proceedings.

Added Cardoso: ‘Cleary displayed a remarkable can-do ability to find solutions to every obstacle or problem that our opponents raised. Every time we turned to Cleary, it delivered for us.’

Such were the problems faced, Cleary drafted lawyers from its London, New York and Paris offices to pursue the claim. It then thoroughly investigated BSGR’s complex offshore corporate structure, traced its cash flows, persuaded material Guinean witnesses to testify in London, and extracted incriminating evidence from BSGR itself. All this work culminated in a devastating and forensic record presented to the LCIA.

The compelling case made by Cleary saw a final award of $1.25bn in damages and $775m in pre-award interest, post-award interest, costs, and legal fees. Concluded Cardoso: ‘These results were achieved by Cleary’s technical excellence and understanding, its absolute and unswerving commitment to Vale’s cause, and its refusal to take a step back when confronted with BSGR’s numerous attempts to derail the arbitration process.’

Highly Commended – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Skadden is the Highly Commended firm in this category after obtaining the largest-ever investment treaty award against Spain on behalf of two Dutch subsidiaries of renewable energy company NextEra.

The team, led by Skadden’s leading duo of David Herlihy and Karyl Nairn, successfully argued Spain’s abolition of the feed-in-tariffs and premiums applicable to NextEra’s solar plants breached the Energy Charter Treaty and entitled NextEra to damages of €290.6m plus interest and an award of more than $5m for attorneys’ fees and arbitration costs. According to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the legal angle taken by Skadden was pivotal to its unanimous finding of liability.

Not only is the award the largest of many claims rendered against Spain in relation to the country’s abolition of a long-term premium and tariff system for concentrated solar power, it is thought to be the largest reward ever won in the renewable energy sector globally.

Other nominations

Addleshaw Goddard

Successfully representing the estate of a deceased Thai investor in an investment treaty claim against the Malaysian government relating to an oceanfront property that had been fraudulently taken from her in 1988.

Crowell & Moring

Enforcing the rule of law in Broadsheet v Government of Pakistan, where the tribunal found that the Pakistan government and its anti-corruption agency had wrongfully repudiated an asset recovery agreement with Broadsheet, confirming that the company was entitled to damages.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Successfully representing Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas in an LCIA dispute with Hungary’s MOL Group over the settlement of another dispute that their joint venture company, Pearl, had with the Kurdistan Regional Government relating to its gas exploitation rights in the country.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Helping Ukraine’s second-largest commercial bank, JSC Oschadbank, obtain a landmark $1.3bn award in its investment treaty claim against the Russian Federation relating to the expropriation of the bank’s business and assets in Crimea.

Legal Business

Firm focus: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Firm focus: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

London headcount: 121 lawyers, 19 partners
Lawyer headcount change since 2014: 1% (-17% partners)
London head: Litigation partner Sunil Gadhia sits on the 11-strong executive committee
Office specialities: M&A, antitrust and disputes

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Big-ticket M&A back on track as Cleary and NRF lead on Alstom’s €6.2bn rail acquisition

Dealwatch: Big-ticket M&A back on track as Cleary and NRF lead on Alstom’s €6.2bn rail acquisition

Amid a relative dearth of substantial European buyouts recently, the proposed €6.2bn acquisition by France’s Alstom of the rail business of Canadian counterpart Bombardier will come as a boon for the international offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Alstom said on Monday (17 February) it had signed an agreement with Bombardier and its shareholder the Canadian pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to acquire 100% of the shares in Bombardier Transportation for between €5.8bn and €6.2bn.

As part of the deal, CDPQ will convert its current €2bn investment in Bombardier Transportation into shares in Alstom and will also invest another €700m in the French rail company, making it Alstom’s largest shareholder with 18%.

The extensive Cleary team advising Alstom was led by M&A partner Pierre-Yves Chabert with London partner Nallini Puri advised on UK corporate matters. Richard Sultman advised on tax from London.

Norton Rose advised Bombardier while Jones Day advised on the antitrust and competition aspects of the deal. Jones Day partner and co-head of antitrust and competition Bernard Amory led from the US. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP advised Bombardier’s financial advisor Citigroup.

Last year Alstom attempted a merger with German company Siemens with plans to create a European rail champion. The merger failed following a block from EU antitrust regulators. Bombardier has been disposing of several parts of its business recently and last year sold its regional jet business to Japanese engineering company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Meanwhile, Travers Smith advised TA Associates on the proposed sale of Merian Global Investors Limited to UK fund management group Jupiter Fund Management for £390m, paid through the issue of new Jupiter shares to Merian shareholders. The deal will create a combined portfolio of £65bn assets under management.

Merian provides investment expertise across major asset classes in fixed income, global emerging market equities, alternatives and global asset allocation. Jupiter Fund Management mainly manages investment trusts and private client portfolios as well as mutual funds, segregated mandates and investment trusts with investments worth £44.1bn for individuals and institutions across the UK and internationally. Jupiter’s fund covers equities, fixed income, multi-asset, multi-manager and alternatives asset classes.

The Travers team was led by head of private equity and financial sponsors and co-head of corporate Paul Dolman. Partner Tim Lewis provided financial regulatory advice, partner Simon Skinner advised on tax, Partner Philip Cheveley advised on equity capital markets and Partner Mahesh Varia advised on incentives and remuneration.

A Macfarlanes team led by M&A partner Luke Powell also advised Merian. Jupiter Fund was advised by Fenchurch Advisory Partners.

Speaking to Legal Business Dolman said that the deal brought together two market-leading asset managers and required a sizable Travers team, covering regulatory, public company, employment benefits and private equity specialisms.

‘We are seeing more and more trade buyers. Jupiter is a trade buyer, but quite unusual because it’s listed. The synergies that a trade buyer can bring gives them an advantage compared to a financial sponsor. It is consistent with what we are seeing in the market,’ said Dolman.

Finally, Travers also advised its long-term client Silverfleet Capital Partners on the acquisition of Danish-based credit management service provider Collectia.

The Travers team was led by private equity and financial sponsors partner Will Yates and worked alongside Danish firm Bruun & Hjejle on the cross-border transaction. Collectia was advised by Macfarlanes with a team led by partner Kirstie Hutchinson.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Weil and Mayer Brown scoop leads on Nestlé’s $4bn US ice cream business sale

Dealwatch: Weil and Mayer Brown scoop leads on Nestlé’s $4bn US ice cream business sale

Weil Gotshal & Manges and Mayer Brown have advised on the sale of Nestlé’s US ice cream business to Froneri for $4bn.

Froneri is an ice cream focused joint venture by Nestlé and PAI Partners created in 2016. The deal means that brands such as Häagen-Dazs, Edy’s, Drumstick and Dreyer’s will join its portfolio which already includes Movenpick, Green & Blacks and Cadbury’s ice cream.

Weil advised Froneri with a team led by London private equity partner Jonathan Wood and Boston private equity partner Matthew Goulding. The team also included London managing partner Michael Francis, head of the firm’s London technology and IP transactions practice Barry Fishley and London banking partner Tom Richards.

Mayer Brown advised Nestle with a team led out of the US by partners David Carpenter, John Boelter and Michelle Gross.

Carpenter told Legal Business: ‘Nestlé has already contributed to the ice cream business in different parts of the world through this joint venture. The buyer is actually 50% owned by Nestlé and so it’s moving the ice cream business into a company that has a private equity partner. It will be focused on ice cream rather than being part of a big conglomerate.’

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised private equity firm CVC Capital Partners on the acquisition of a stake in WebPros Group by CVC Fund VII from Oakley Capital Private Equity and other investors.

WebPros is a web hosting automation software provider for server management and includes web hosting platforms cPanel and Plesk and web hosting management and billing software WHMCS.

The Freshfields team was led by global co-head of financial sponsors Charles Hayes, co-head of European leveraged finance Alex Mitchell and corporate and M&A lawyer Vincent Bergin.

Kirkland & Ellis advised Oakley Capital on the sale led by London corporate partners Rory Mullarkey and Jacob Traff as well as Ben Leyendeckerin Munich.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Elsewhere, White & Case advised on the $25.6bn IPO of Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), making it the world’s largest IPO. The company began trading on the Saudi Arabian Tadawul Stock Exchange on Wednesday 11 December under TADAWUL: ARAMCO.

The offering included subscriptions from institutions and individuals, comprising of SAR 446bn ($119bn). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sold 3bn shares of Saudi Aramco which accounted for 1.5% Saudi Aramco’s share capital.

The White & Case team was led by Dubai partner Sami Al-Louzi and included London partners Inigo Esteve, capital markets partner Alexander Underwood, Ronan O’Reilly and employment compensation and benefits lawyer Jack Gardener. The Law Office of Megren Al-Shaalan also advised Aramco with a team led by Megren Al-Shaalan and Doug Peel and included London capital markets partner Ibrahim Soumrany.

The $1.7trn valuation makes Saudi Aramco the largest company by market capitalisation. Over 400 White & Case lawyers from around 20 offices advised Saudi Aramco on the transaction.

Latham & Watkins advised the underwriters of Saudi Aramco on non-Saudi law matters. The team was led by New York partners Marc Jaffe and Ian Schuman and included London partner Craig Nethercott. London partners James Inness and Jeremy Green offered advice on corporate matters, Chirag Sanghrajka advised on finance, Rob Moulton advised on regulatory matters while Karl Mah advised on tax.

Prior to the listing, the largest IPO spot was held by Alibaba Group Holding Limited which listed in September 2014 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for $21.8bn.

Finally, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton advised Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) on the $450m acquisition of a 25.1% stake in Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML) from Adani Transmission Limited as well as a shareholder subordinated debt investment by QIA in AEML.

AEML is part of Adani Group, an integrated business conglomerate based in India which includes six publicly traded companies, focusing on resources, logistics, energy and agriculture.

The Cleary team was led by London partners Tihir Sarkar and Nallini Puri.

Puri told Legal Business: ‘QIA is a very big investor to be partnering with. The Adani Group is a big group with lots of diversified interests and historically they’ve engaged in a lot of acquisitions, particularly within India. India’s done less with foreign investors. In some ways this is a very significant partnership for them because they’ve tied up with a very high profile investor.’

AEMl was advised by Indian firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas led by partners from the Mumbai office.

The deal is expected to close in early 2020 subject to customary conditions and regulatory approval.

Legal Business

Partner promotions: Cleary bypasses the City as Ropes again makes up just one in London

Partner promotions: Cleary bypasses the City as Ropes again makes up just one in London

Despite previously denying claims that the firm is retrenching in London, Ropes & Gray has promoted just one new partner in the City as part of a 16-strong round while Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has neglected its London arm entirely.

The promotion of Elizabeth Todd to partner in Ropes’ City private equity transactions practice is another sign of the firm’s conservative approach to investing in London after last year promoting only one full-time partner, Aditya Khanna in corporate finance.

The disappointing showing for London comes after claims from London managing partner Mike Goetz that the axing last year of four of its London real estate and restructuring partners was ‘no way a sign of retrenchment’. The cuts came as Ropes said it would focus its real estate practice on its prized client base of asset managers, hedge funds, credit funds and direct investors amid a recent drift.  In the face of those reversals, Ropes pulled off a slight return last year after being hit by a 13% decline in fee-earners in 2017, growing its headcount 1% in 2018. Overall, the firm has swelled fee-earner numbers by 125% since 2013.

Meanwhile, Cleary has also failed to make a splash in recent years, with the lack of City partner promotions this year from a seven-strong global round following on from only one promotion in London last year and the year before. In 2018, it promoted James Brady to its disputes practice after Nallini Puri was made up in the corporate practice the previous year.

Cleary has already attracted negative headlines this week with the loss to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer of a four-partner New York M&A team led by veteran Ethan Klingsberg.

In London, amid the retirement of the well-respected Simon Jay and Michael McDonald last year, Cleary also won the unwelcome accolade of being among the five fastest-shrinking Global London law firms, with a 7% headcount reduction in the last financial year.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Akin Gump hires Orrick private equity player as Kirkland revisits Linklaters for tax lateral

Revolving doors: Akin Gump hires Orrick private equity player as Kirkland revisits Linklaters for tax lateral

City and US rivals in London have been continuing to ramp up lateral recruitment with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld adding its third private equity partner in the space of a month, Kirkland & Ellis hiring a tax partner from Linklaters and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) strengthening its employment bench.

Akin Gump hired private equity partner Weyinmi Popo from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe only a month after adding Shaun Lascelles and Simon Rootsey to the bench from Vinson & Elkins in late September.

Popo advises UK and international sponsor and investor clients as well as family offices on private equity, M&A, infrastructure and energy transactions, with an emphasis on Africa. He will start at his new firm later this month.

Akin Gump’s chairperson Kim Koopersmith (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘London is clearly a market we’re focused on for growth, and you’ve seen us welcome a lot of great talent there recently. Much of that growth has been around the private equity space, which complements our other strengths very well and where we’ve identified a number of opportunities. Weyinmi’s practice and skillset fits in perfectly with that strategy. That, coupled with his focus on Africa, where we are seeing tremendous client interest, will make him a great fit.’

Meanwhile, Kirkland has returned to Linklaters to hire tax partner Mavnick Nerwal. He follows in the footsteps of fellow tax partner Tim Lowe who made the move from the Magic Circle firm to the Chicago-bred powerhouse in 2016.

Nerwal has experience in advising financial sponsors, including private equity and investment funds, corporates and financial institutions.

Meanwhile, BCLP has hired Adam Lambert as partner in the employment and labor group. Lambert joined the London office from Kingsley Napley where he focused on employment disputes and global transactions, advising across sectors including asset management, professional services, publishing, manufacturing and hospitality.

Partner and co-leader of the employment and labor team Rebecca Harding-Hill, told Legal Business: ‘Adam particularly fits in with us because of his global reach. He’s got a broad client base which covers financial services, professional services, publishing and hospitality. We have a lot of clients in financial services, so it broadens that out.’

Elsewhere, Clyde & Co has appointed Stefanie Johnston as partner in its global marine and insurance team in Glasgow.

Johnston joins from Keoghs where she helped to establish the firm’s Scottish presence. She will establish and build the firm’s marine offering in Scotland and will work closely with marine colleagues in the UK and globally.

Managing partner at Clyde & Co in Scotland, David Tait told Legal Business: ‘Stephanie has been a marine practitioner for a number of years. She has had clients follow her from firm to firm and it is hoped that when she comes to work for us, that those clients will continue to follow her and that she will grow the practice and build on the many years of experience she has in marine law.

‘We’ve got a significant marine practice in London and if they have any clients that require assistance on Scottish matters, we’ve got Stephanie here who can help them with that,’ added Tait.

Finally, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton London corporate finance partner Andrew Shutter has left the firm after 22 years. Shutter joined the firm in 1997 and advised on a range of debt matters, including being an adviser for Greece’s public debt management agency regarding Greece’s debt negotiations in 2015.

Legal Business

Global Outlook sponsored briefing: Internal investigations and public enforcement: challenges under Italian law

Global Outlook sponsored briefing: Internal investigations and public enforcement: challenges under Italian law

Cleary Gottlieb’s Francesco De Biasi, Andrea Mantovani and Alessandra Anselmi examine the challenges facing companies

Internal investigations and public enforcement actions pose significant legal challenges for companies. The inherent multidisciplinary nature of the most frequent issues, which requires an in-depth knowledge not only of the laws and regulations of the relevant industry, but also of criminal, corporate, contract, data protection and labour law (often in more than one jurisdiction), increases these challenges.

Legal Business

Comment: Deal view – Cleary Gottlieb seeks to avoid City M&A anonymity in the age of US disruptors

Comment: Deal view – Cleary Gottlieb seeks to avoid City M&A anonymity in the age of US disruptors

The London contingent of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has recently moved across the road into premises so new they do not yet have a postcode recognised by Google Maps. The irony is not lost if you consider the firm’s role as counsel to Google on some of the most high-profile antitrust cases in recent years. You would have thought they would have had that detail covered.

Uncharted or otherwise, the shiny new office can only be seen as a vote of confidence from Manhattan, especially as it will allow the City branch to accommodate some 180 lawyers – 40 more than it currently houses. But despite an exceptional competition practice and a long-established European network, Cleary ’s struggle to become a big hitter in London for mainstream M&A has been evident.

Two recent mandates for London-led teams announced in February stood out as being the exceptions to the rule for the corporate team rather than the latest in a string of major deals. Cleary consolidated longstanding relationships and bolstered its public M&A ambitions by advising Fidessa group on the proposed £1.4bn takeover offer from fellow financial software company Temenos Group, as well as American Express on its joint venture’s £400m takeover of Hogg Robinson Group.

Simon Jay led the team that advised Fidessa, having forged a relationship with the company in 1997 when he advised on its initial public offering, while Tihir Sarkar – who advised Amex in 2014 on the formation of the joint venture – led again for Amex. Those deals stand out as rare London-led plays since the firm advised Qatar Investment Authority on its acquisition, as part of a consortium, of a 61% stake in National Grid’s gas distribution business, which closed in March 2017.

But while there is a dearth of substantive M&A work out of London, Cleary has been busy elsewhere. The firm is quick to point to a pair of significant mandates during 2017: advising General Motors on the sale of its Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary and General Motors Financial Company’s European operations to Groupe PSA. The transactions were valued at €1.3bn and €0.9bn respectively. The deals were led out of Paris and New York but featured Bob Penn – one of the firm’s rare lateral hires from Allen & Overy in 2016 – advising on regulatory matters in London.

The firm’s rigid lockstep partnership model perhaps poses a challenge to its expansion in London now more than ever, in a climate where the likes of Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins are splashing the cash to attract top performers. And although extremely conservative about making up partners internally, Cleary’s only London partner promotion in the latest round was in corporate. The promotion of Nallini Puri is evidence of the maturity of Cleary’s corporate practice that is now allowing lawyers to climb the ranks internally.

London fee-earner count has also increased a substantial 21% in the last year, rising to 140 lawyers from 116. The increase is thanks to the firm taking on more trainees and holding on to more of its associates, rather than an uncharacteristic hiring spree.

Jay is bullish about the firm’s position in London and its ability to deepen its bench following the move. ‘The new office is one of the biggest financial commitments the firm has ever made. It has been great for morale and will be good for hiring.’

But a shiny new office is not enough on its own to help a prestige firm realise its ambitions in an aggressive market – it simply provides room to manoeuvre. Being old school will only get you so far in the age of disruption.