Legal Business

Latham lands Debevoise arbitration star Lamb as it seeks disputes growth in the City


Latham & Watkins has hired US rival Debevoise & Plimpton‘s rising arbitration star Sophie Lamb (pictured) as it builds out its disputes practice.

Lamb joins Latham as a partner in its City office in a move that will come as a blow to Debevoise. Lamb is regarded as one of the leading arbitration lawyers of her generation, and one of the few female success stories in an area of law that has long been male-dominated.

Lamb worked closely with former Attorney General for England and Wales and London co-managing partner at Debevoise, Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, during her eight years at the firm. Lamb made partner in 2010, just two years after joining the US firm. She began her career as a barrister at One Essex Court, where she worked closely with Lord Grabiner QC.

The hire comes as part of a renewed push by Latham in the European disputes space, having already built out in finance, private equity and competition. She is the firm’s strongest international arbitration hire in Europe since it hired Fernando Mantilla-Serrano from Shearman & Sterling in 2014 as its co-chair of international arbitration.

In the last few years, the firm has landed rainmaker Claudia Salomon in New York from DLA Piper where she was co-chair of its international arbitration practice, Ing Loong Yang from Sidley Austin in Hong Kong and Markus Rieder in Munich from Shearman & Sterling.

Jamie Wine, global chair of Latham’s litigation and trial group, said: ‘We have been steadily growing our capability in the world’s key arbitration venues as we look to establish a truly global market-leading disputes practice. Sophie brings a formidable track-record in representing clients in high stakes, market shaping disputes.’

Lamb has acted as adviser and advocate in more than 100 international commercial arbitrations. She has also led complex litigation in the English and overseas courts, including in business and human rights cases, and has full rights of audience in the superior English courts, having appeared as advocate at every level, including the UK Supreme Court.

Goldsmith said: ‘Sophie and I have enjoyed many successful campaigns and I will of course miss her presence in the team. She is an outstanding litigator and advocate and has been a major contributor to the successes of the London litigation practice. Latham & Watkins are very fortunate to have her.’

Lamb has represented the likes of South Korea, energy major Exxon Mobil, car maker Daewoo and Russia’s largest mobile operator Mobile TeleSystems in high-stakes disputes.

Legal Business

Turning Japanese: Debevoise & Plimpton launches in Tokyo in first new outpost in a decade


With Japan’s ageing population and cheap debt forcing its biggest corporates to look outside the country for growth, Debevoise & Plimpton has become the latest US law firm to launch in Tokyo.

Boosted by the availability of cheap debt, Japanese corporates have become more acquisitive over recent years as they hunt growth, often looking to Europe for mergers and acquisitions. Debevoise & Plimpton’s new office will be centred on corporate work, with partner Christopher Smeall and counsel Naomi Aoyama relocating from New York to lead the office.

The Tokyo launch is Debevoise’s first international expansion in over a decade, with the last office opened in Shanghai in 2002. Tokyo will be its ninth global office.

The opening better positions Debevoise to take advantage of rising M&A volume from Japan into Europe. Japanese corporates spent a whopping $90.49bn on overseas acquisitions last year, up nearly 70% on 2014, according to data from Dealogic. Among those deals were Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company’s £3.5bn deal for UK insurer Amlin and media company Nikkei’s £844m purchase of the Financial Times.

Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair said the launch will ‘allow us to provide even better support and service to our clients located in Japan or engaged in matters relating to Japan’.

The move follows a growing wave of law firm investment in Tokyo, with US rivals Greenberg Traurig and King & Spalding launching in Japan last year. Squire Patton Boggs has bolstered its presence in Tokyo by tying up with Japanese corporate boutique Mamiya Law Offices (MLO) around 18 months ago.

Smeall added: ‘Our clients in Japan and elsewhere can expect the same level of focused, dedicated and commercially sophisticated legal advice and service from our Tokyo team as they have long been receiving from Debevoise globally.’ 

Legal Business

Revenues up 6% at Debevoise as London breaks $100m barrier


Debevoise & Plimpton ended a period of slow growth by posting a 6% rise in revenue to $756.9m as profits surged by 10%.

The New York-headquartered firm added $41.6m to its top line in 2015, matching the 6% growth rate achieved between 2010 and 2014 after an improved performance.

Profits per equity partner (PEP) at the firm rose 10% to $2.62m, handing the firm’s 134 equity partners over $300,000 more than they received in 2014.

The firm’s London office, headed by high profile disputes partner Lord Peter Goldsmith QC and tax lawyer Richard Ward, is understood to have registered a 20% rise in revenue to $110.5m.

With the London arm having recorded revenue of around $92m in 2014, the firm added nearly $20m to break the $100m barrier.

Growth of the office, home to 110 lawyers, was driven by strong performances in the funds and disputes space. Its City lawyers acted for private equity funds Ares on the creation of a $1.3bn real estate fund, Exponent on a £1bn PE fund and Park Square Capital on a $2.4bn fund for distressed assets.

Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair said: ‘In recent years, the London office has come of age. It is now a significant engine of growth for the firm, attracting headline clients and internationally significant matters. 2015 saw our firmwide revenues and profits continue to rise, and London remains an important driver of that success.’

Last year the firm posted a 3% revenue rise to $710m, up nearly $22m on 2013, while partner profits also increased by 3%. With a small increase in the size of its partnership, from 138 in 2013 to 134 in 2014, the growth was largely organic.

Legal Business

‘Steadily building’: Debevoise ramps up Asia practice with Sullivan corporate hire


In a rare move, Debevoise & Plimpton has picked up Hong Kong based corporate partner William Chua from US elite firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

Chua joins Debevoise in a bid to strengthen the firm’s transactional capabilities in Asia, and to complement its private equity funds practice in the region. Part of Chua’s role will be to reinforce the firm’s growing strategic M&A practice in financial services and other sectors.

Chua has been a partner at the Wall Street firm for 13 years and previously led its Beijing office. With experience in private equity, M&A, finance and capital markets, including takeovers, leveraged buyouts, going private transactions, divestitures and spinoffs, he has practised in Asia for over 15 years and is dual-qualified in New York and Hong Kong. He also has a finance and capital markets practice, including debt and borrower-focused acquisition and leveraged finance, and IPOs.

According to the firm, Chua’s addition will allow Debevoise’s Asia practice to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ to private equity clients. ‘We are steadily building on our market-leading capabilities in the region,’ said Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair. ‘William brings us deep transactional experience in Asia combined with the cultural background and language abilities that our clients need.’

Chua’s arrival represents the latest in a series of moves in Asia for Debevoise. In 2014, the firm converted its Hong Kong office to become a local practice, while later that year, Debevoise recruited Mark Johnson as a partner in the Hong Kong office. Johnson joined from Herbert Smith Freehills, where he was a partner for over 20 years.

Legal Business

Game over: Debevoise, A&O and Fenwick & West lead on Candy Crush maker’s sale for $6bn


Debevoise & Plimpton, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Fenwick & West have scored roles advising video game maker Activision Blizzard on the acquisition of Candy Crush creator King Digital Entertainment for $5.9bn – one of the largest deals in the fast-growing interactive entertainment industry.

The acquisition will create one of the world’s largest entertainment networks with over a half a billion monthly active users in 196 countries.

Under the agreement, ABS Partners – a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard – will acquire all of the outstanding shares of King Digital at $18 per share, for a total equity value of $5.9bn.

The acquisition is expected to generate over $36bn of revenue by the end of 2015 and grow by over 50% in the next four years.

Debevoise was lead M&A counsel for the deal with a team led out of New York by its corporate chair Jeffrey Rosen and co-head of M&A William Regner. Finance partner David Brittenham, benefits chair Lawrence Cagney, tax partner Gary Friedman and corporate partners Paul Rodel and Jeffrey Ross also worked on the transaction.

Activision Blizzard turned to A&O for advice on competition aspects in the EU, led by antitrust partner Dirk Arts, alongside Irish firm Mason Hayes & Curran.

Dublin-based King instructed Irish firm William Fry with US advice from tech firm Fenwick & West.

The deal is the latest in a series of tech deals for A&O, which recently won a role advising IT company CSC on its merger with US public sector tech outfit SRA to create a company with $5.5bn in revenues and billed as the ‘largest pure-play IT services provider serving the US government sector.’

A&O has been active in the financial technology arena, working on a raft of IPOs including Worldpay, Equiniti, Funding Circle and Softcat.

Legal Business

Debevoise and Reed Smith face off as British American Tobacco launches €578m claim against PwC


Litigators at the London arms of Debevoise & Plimpton and Reed Smith have been drafted in on a €578m (£418m) professional negligence claim brought by British American Tobacco (BAT) against Big Four accountancy firm PwC.

BAT has instructed Kevin Lloyd, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, to bring the claim against PwC in the Chancery Division of the English High Court. The legal action stems from PwC’s audit of paper maker Windward Prospects, a company with which BAT has a long-running dispute over the cost of cleaning up a polluted river in Wisconsin. BAT alleges PwC failed to fully account for clean-up costs of the polluted river in its audit of Windward.

A subsidiary of BAT, BAT Industries, claims it had an indemnity from Windward that it would cover past and future claims from the river pollution. BAT is now looking to recoup from PwC the value of two dividends paid out by Windward, totalling €578m, which were made on the basis of the PwC audit and allegedly jeopardised its ability to cover its share of the river clean-up costs.

A spokesperson for PwC told Legal Business: ‘We strongly dispute the claim and will be seeking to have it struck out in November.’

The dispute led the world’s second-biggest cigarette maker to jettison PwC as its own auditor in early 2015, a position it had held since BAT listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1998. BAT, which is also involved in a high-profile judicial review against the UK Government’s plain packaging rules for tobacco products, has since overhauled its global legal function to incorporate corporate and regulatory affairs.

Lloyd, who joined Debevoise from Herbert Smith Freehills in 2013, has instructed Andrew Thompson QC of Erskine Chambers to bring the case before the courts.

PwC, which wants to strike out the case on the basis there is no cause of action, argues the dividends were based on interim accounts and not audited accounts. The firm has instructed Reed Smith’s co-chair of global regulatory enforcement Charles Hewetson to defend the claim. Hewetson has brought in well-known professional negligence barrister, Simon Salzedo QC of Brick Court Chambers, as counsel.

Legal Business

Debevoise and Reed Smith face off as BAT launches €578m claim against PwC


Litigators at the London arms of Debevoise & Plimpton and Reed Smith have been drafted in on a €578m (£418m) professional negligence claim brought by British American Tobacco (BAT) against Big Four accountancy firm PwC.

BAT has instructed Kevin Lloyd, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, to bring the claim against PwC in the Chancery Division of the English High Court. The legal action stems from PwC’s audit of paper maker Windward Prospects, a company with which BAT has a long-running dispute over the cost of cleaning up a polluted river in Wisconsin. BAT alleges PwC failed to fully account for clean-up costs of the polluted river in its audit of Windward.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Herbert Smith Freehills strikes gold with Polyus takeover bid


Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has picked up a new client as a number of firms took advisory roles in Sacturino’s bid to buy the remaining part of Polyus Gold it does not own.

Russian billionaire Said Kerimov’s company Sacturino, together with its parent company Wandle Holdings, already owns a 40.2% stake in Russia’s largest gold producer Polyus Gold. 

Jersey-based Polyus, which had instructed Debevoise & Plimpton in 2012 for its stock exchange listing, turned to HSF, which advised with a team led by London corporate partners Mike Flockhart, Greg Mulley and global M&A head Steven Wilkinson.

Sacturino was advised by Norton Rose Fulbright with a London team led by partners Chris Pearson and Paul Whitelock supported by corporate partner Simon FT Cox and banking partner Rich Hughes. A Norton Rose team from Moscow is being led by partners Julian Traill and Alexander Tsakeov.

This time around Debevoise is on the other side of the deal table, acting for Sacturino alongside Jersey firm Bedell Cristin on the financing aspects of the deal, which values Polyus Gold at $9bn.

The financier for Sacturino’s bid VTB Capital was advised by Allen & Overy (A&O) with a team led by banking partner Sanjeev Dhuna and supported by corporate partner Richard Hough and tax partner Chris Harrison. Ogier Jersey also acted alongside A&O with a team led by partner Chris Byrne.

On Wednesday Polyus said the offer was disappointing and had ‘materially undervalued’ the company.

HSF has recently advised opposite EY for British American Tobacco as its long standing client signed a conditional agreement to acquire 100% of Europe’s largest eCigarette retailing network, CHIC.

Legal Business

Debevoise and White & Case to battle out South Korea tax arbitration


Debevoise & Plimpton and White & Case are among firms drafted in to fight out an arbitration claim against South Korea from Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

Two Dutch subsidiaries of IPIC, Hanocal and IPICI want to reclaim tax paid to South Korea when it sold its controlling stake in a national oil refinery for $2.2bn in 2010. According to domestic media, Hanocal filed a claim for 180 billion won ($165 million) in compensation.

The investment arm of the Abu Dhabi has brought the claim over tax paid on the sale of Hyundai Oilbank to the world’s largest shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries. The claim has been filed at the World Bank’s Washington DC-based arbitration court The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

South Korea’s government has instructed New York-based David Rivkin, co-head of dispute resolution at Debevoise and president of the International Bar Association, and London-based partner Sophie Lamb to defend the claim. They will be supported by a trio of partners at local law firm Kim & Chang: Byung-Chol Yoon, Liz Kyo-Hwa Chung and Chol-Won Lee.

IPIC has instructed renowned arbitration lawyer Carolyn Lamm, a partner at White & Case, to spearhead its claim. She is being supported by Washington DC-based colleagues, Andrea Menaker and Brian Gleicher, as well as Abu Dhabi-based partner Abdulwahid Alulama.

London-based Gary Born, chair of the international arbitration group at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has been appointed to a three-person panel to hear the dispute by Hanocal and IPICI. South Korea has nominated William Park, a law professor Boston University and former vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration, as its party-appointed arbitrator. The panel’s president is yet to be selected.

In 2009 Debevoise had acted alongside Bae, Kim & Lee to win $750m for Hyundai Heavy Industries after an arbitration panel ruled the IPIC had materially breached a shareholders’ agreement. 

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Allen & Overy wins stateside role on merger creating $5.5bn US government IT giant


Allen & Overy’s (A&O) New York office and Debevoise & Plimpton have won roles advising IT company CSC on its combination with US public sector tech outfit SRA to create a company with $5.5bn in revenues and billed as the ‘largest pure-play IT services provider serving the US government sector’.

The soon-to-be split CSC will combine its government services unit, Computer Sciences Government Services (CSGov), with SRA, creating a company with combined annual sales of $5.5bn and a workforce of nearly 19,000 employees.

A&O advised CSC on the deal which sees CSGov’s shareholders own 84.7% of the new company. Its New York-based team was led by M&A partner Peter Harwich, alongside the firm’s head of tax Jack Heinberg and co-head of antitrust Elaine Johnston. In May, A&O advised CSC when it first announced its was to separate its government services unit into two independent publicly traded companies, for which Harwich also led.

Debevoise is acting for both SRA and its owner Providence Equity Partners, with a team led by partners Margaret Davenport and Michael Diz, along with partners Gary Friedman, Jonathan Lewis, Pierre Maugüé and Steven Slutzky.

Under the deal, SRA’s shareholders will own 15.3% and will receive $390m in cash. The deal aims to close before the end of November 2015, when CSC’s is set to separate its government services unit.