Legal Business

Partner promotions: Stephenson Harwood makes up five in London as Ince promotes City duo and one in Dubai


Stephenson Harwood and Ince & Co are the latest firms to announce their partner promotions, with the former making up five partners in London while Ince made up two in the City and a third partner in Dubai.

All located in London, promotions at Stephenson Harwood were spread across three practice areas with its marine and international trade, commercial litigation and finance groups all receiving a boost. The round brings the firm’s partnership total to 129.

Commercial litigation and marine and international trade also benefitted in Ince’s promotions round with James Hickland and David Richards joining the practice areas in London respectively. The firm also made an international promotion with Khalid Hamed joining the partnership in Dubai.

Alongside the three promotions, Ince also bolstered its ranks in London with the lateral hire of Anna Anatolitou from Bird & Bird. Previously based in the UAE, where she led Bird & Bird’s regional aviation practice and worked in-house for the Air Arabia Group, Anatolitou will relocate to the firm’s London office.

Since last year’s partner promotions, Ince & Co also promoted Matthew Stratton to partner in corporate and recruited Philippe Ruttley to head up its EU and Competition practice.

The full list of partner promotions is as follows:

Stephenson Harwood

Nick Barber, London, marine and international trade

Russell Binch, London, commercial litigation

Max Lemanski, London, marine and international trade

Ros Prince, London, commercial litigation

Jonathan Proctor, London, finance

Ince & Co

Khalid Hamed, Dubai, commercial

James Hickland, London, commercial litigation

David Richards, London, marine and international trade

Legal Business

Diversifying the group: Stephenson Harwood appoints a non-shipping head of finance


Stephenson Harwood has named restructuring and insolvency partner Sue Moore (pictured) as the new head of its global finance practice group as current head Mark Russell steps down after 18 years.

The appointment comes as the firm’s global finance practice has gradually diversified to include other groups such as banking and restructuring, as well as traditional groups: ship finance and leasing, rail and aviation.

Moore will oversee the finance team that includes 29 partners, of which 17 are based in the City. Last year the group contributed around 25% of the firm’s turnover with a 10% rise in international revenues. Former head Russell has led the finance practice since 1997 and will continue in his role as the head of the firm’s ship finance and leasing group. 

Moore joined the banking and restructuring group in 2012 after having been a partner in legacy SNR Dentons’ restructuring and insolvency practice for nine years. She has particular experience in high profile cross-border and domestic restructurings and corporate insolvencies, as well as contentious or non-contentious financial distress issues. Some noteworthy cases include advising on the restructuring of Monarch Airlines, the pre-packs of Thomson Directories and the RSM Tenon Group, and the restructuring of the Co-op Bank.

‘The appointment of a restructuring partner highlights the increased diversity of the finance practice over recent years. Historically, the ship finance group dominated the finance practice, but there are now a number of other significant groups, including banking, restructuring, rail and aviation,’ Moore told Legal Business. ‘I am very pleased to take on the role and lead the finance practice in its next chapter of growth and development. Over recent years, restructurings have become more complex and typically bring together teams from across finance and the wider firm.’

Legal Business

Back and forth: SFO wins document appeal against Tchenguiz brother


After being hit with a £4.5m settlement in the Tchenguiz battle, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has fired back and won an appeal against Robert Tchenguiz and two other companies’ application for the collateral use of certain documents.

The high-profile Tchenguiz brothers’ lawsuit continues to hit the UK courts as Robert Tchenguiz (pictured) attended a hearing in the Rolls Building this week (8 December 2014). The hearing lasted an entire day and took place before Justice Eder in relation to Robert Tchenguiz’s application to use 57 documents in a pending appeal by Rawlinson & Hunter Trustees (R&H) in other proceedings in Guernsey. The documents were taken from SFO’s disclosure in the civil proceedings that settled in July this year. Alongside R&H, the other company involved was R20 Limited.

Stephenson Harwood’s commercial litigation partner Sean Jeffrey – who has represented Tchenguiz brothers Robert and Vincent throughout the proceedings, since replacing former legal counsel Shearman & Sterling litigator Jo Rickard earlier this year – represented Robert, R20 and R&H, alongside Catherine Newman QC of Maitland Chambers, Peter Lodder QC of 2 Bedford Row, and John Robb at Essex Court Chambers.

The Treasury solicitor instructed Pushpinder Saini QC and James Segan, both at Blackstone Chambers, to defend the SFO.

The judgment in favour of the SFO was handed down yesterday (11 December) and a direction hearing is expected to follow next week.

‘I am unpersuaded that the balancing exercise which I am required to perform comes down in favour of granting permission to use the documents for the intended collateral purposes pursuant to CPR Part 31.22,’ said Justice Eder. ‘R&H has failed to advance a cogent or comprehensible case as to the alleged relevance and probative value of the 57 documents in Guernsey which outweighs the strong public interest in preserving the integrity of criminal investigations.’

The appeal comes after Vincent Tchenguiz filed a recent £2.2bn claim against five parties who allegedly conspired to instigate the failed investigation led by the SFO into the Tchenguiz brothers.

The claims came after the SFO’s initial investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing led to warrants for a public raid on the Tchenguiz’ properties involving 135 police officers. The investigations were, however, dropped and in judicial review proceedings in June 2012, the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files on the basis they were improperly obtained.

Legal Business

Old acquaintances: Stephenson Harwood enters alliance in Guangzhou with former partner’s firm


Following on from closing its office in Guangzhou in Greater China in September this year, Stephenson Harwood has entered an alliance with local firm Wei Tu.

The move will allow Stephenson Harwood to continue advising existing and potential investors doing business in Guangdong Province and particularly southern China.

Xianming Lu, former PRC partner in Stephenson Harwood’s Guangzhou office and founding partner of Wei Tu, will head the office. Under new rules, the two firms will work together on China-based deals but will not share profits or work under the same brand.

Stephenson Harwood first set up in Guangzhou in 1994 but, after ten years of operating in the region, decided to close citing the ‘changing business conditions’ as the main reason.

Nevertheless, the firm has this year been busy forming new alliances and opening new offices in the region including launching an office in Seoul in August and receiving formal approval to work with Singapore firm Virtus Law earlier this year.

Voon Keat Lai, Stephenson Harwood managing partner for Greater China said: ‘I am very pleased to announce this alliance with Wei Tu. We are seeing increasing demand from our clients for expertise in PRC law and an alliance with a firm we trust enables us to provide our clients with a consistent approach.’

The news comes as Stephenson Harwood posted a 12% increase in turnover to £64m for the first half of the financial year 2014/15 last week [3 December], and said that its Dubai office had seen a particular rise in revenues after opening in 2012. The firm has nine offices across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Legal Business

H1 2014/15: ‘Early stages’ – Stephenson Harwood’s revenues up 12% in first half


Stephenson Harwood has posted a 12% increase in turnover to £64m for the first half of the financial year 2014/15 compared to £57m in the same period in 2013, with the firm’s new Dubai office seeing a rise in revenues.

Chief executive Sharon White said that although not one practice area or region stood out, she was particularly impressed with how the firm was performing in its Dubai office, which launched in December 2012.

‘The Dubai office has seen a large increase in revenues, but that is because it’s in its early stages,’ said White. ‘The office is establishing itself in the region and offers a broad range of litigation and corporate work.’

But, White added: ‘London is still our biggest office and growth in London is still very much on our agenda.’

The firm has recruited five partners in the first half of this year, including the hire of corporate partners Geoff Gouriet and Sam Gray from Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co in London, DLA Piper’s Mike Pullen and Salem Chalabi, and Clyde & Co’s Lynia Lau to head the firm’s energy and resources group in Greater China.

In September this year, Stephenson Harwood closed its office in Guangzhou as the firm reviewed its strategy in China, and was awarded a licence to open a Seoul office in August, in a bid to boost its marine, international trade and ship-finance work in Seoul.

According to the firm’s recent LLP filings ending 30 April 2014, operating profit at the firm was up 17% from £37.5m to £44m, while overall profit was up marginally more by 18% from £36.8m to £43.3m.

The average number of equity partners grew from 122 in 2013 to 119 in 2014, with the highest paid partner receiving £1,025,000, an increase of 14.5% on last year when the highest paid member took home £825,000. Overall headcount at the firm grew from 702 to 725, and overall staff costs reflected this by rising a mere 2%.

The firm currently has nine offices across Europe, Asia and the Middle East and has acted on a number of high profile international deals over the course of the year including the $2.5bn tourism development project in Oman in October; and advising on the restructuring of Monarch Airlines where Stephenson Harwood advised the Pension Protection Fund in relation to the restructuring of the substantial pension deficit.

Legal Business

A £2.2bn claim: Stephenson Harwood and McGuireWoods act as Vincent Tchenguiz files against Grant Thornton and Kaupthing


Following on from the high profile Tchenguiz brothers’ lawsuit against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in July this year, Vincent Tchenguiz has filed a further claim, this time for £2.2bn against five parties who allegedly conspired to instigate the failed investigation led by the SFO into the Tchenguiz brothers, Consensus Business Group (CBC) and the Tchenguiz Family Trust (TFT).

The five defendants are chartered accountants Grant Thornton and two of their partners Stephen John Akers (recovery and reorganisation practice) and Hossein Hamedani (forensic investigations), the winding down Kaupthing Bank, and former Kaupthing’s resolution committee member Johannes Runar Johannsson, currently partner at JP Attorneys, and a member of the bank’s winding up committee.

McGuireWoods litigator Hardeep Nahal is advising Vincent Tchenguiz, while Stephenson Harwood’s commercial litigation partner Sean Jeffrey is representing the trustees. Counsel being instructed are Romie Tager QC of Selborne Chambers, Jonathan Crystal of Goldsmith Chambers, Zacharias Miah at ASW6 Chambers and Harris Bor at Wilberforce Chambers.

The three individual defendants allegedly conspired to put Tchenguiz and the TFT companies under acute commercial and financial pressure to settle a £1.6bn Commercial Court claim brought against Kaupthing. They are also accused of effectively controlling the SFO investigation, which led to search warrants being issued on 7 March 2011 against Tchenguiz and his arrest. Grant Thornton and Kaupthing are accused of being liable for the individuals’ actions.

Tchenguiz is seeking damages estimated at £2.2bn, including aggravated and exemplary damages for claims including conspiracy by unlawful means and malicious prosecution. The case will take place in the Commercial Court

The claims come after the SFO’s initial investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing led to warrants for a public raid on the Tchenguiz’ properties involving 135 police officers. The investigations were, however, dropped and in judicial review proceedings in June 2012, the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files, on the basis they were improperly obtained.

In July 2014, the SFO paid a total of £4.5m to both Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz – of which £3m was awarded to Vincent.

Tchenguiz said: ‘It is clear to me that the SFO was deliberately manipulated into investigating me by people who intended to cause me harm and were driven by commercial gain and self-interest. This was, I believe, quite simply, a conspiracy by the defendants to use a criminal investigative authority for their own personal ends and to cause irreparable harm to me and my business interests and I intend to see them held fully accountable.

Nahal, who issued the claim, added: ‘We are very pleased to be issuing this claim which is key to Vincent Tchenguiz’s efforts to achieve justice in relation to events going back many years which have caused him substantial damage. The claim brings into the light extremely serious allegations as to how private parties were able to manipulate regulatory and other procedures to cause damage to Vincent Tchenguiz and his interests and for their own commercial ends. These are issues which should be thoroughly examined through the court process.’

In response, a Grant Thornton spokesperson said, ‘Grant Thornton UK LLP, Steve Akers and Hossein Hamedani deny all of the claims made. We have all acted appropriately and in accordance with our professional responsibilities and legal obligations throughout. After years of speculation in the media, we will now have the opportunity to defend ourselves through the court process. Given that this is now a matter of legal proceedings, we will not be commenting further at this time.’

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood scales back on Asia offering with Guangzhou office closure as Hogan Lovells makes another hire


UK firm Stephenson Harwood has closed its office in Guangzhou as the firm reviews its strategy in China, while Hogan Lovells has continued to bolster its Asia offering with another lateral hire, as Paul Hastings’ Tokyo project finance head Joe Kim joining the firm.

London-based Stephenson Harwood, which posted a respectable 8% rise in revenues to £121m alongside a 17% rise in profit per equity partner to £532,000 for the 2013/14 financial year, is understood to have shut its operations in Guangzhou as it considers potential tie-ups with local firms in the region.

Led by corporate partner Hilda Chui, the office offered services to existing and potential international investors, as well as other companies and individuals doing business or who plan to do business in Guangdong Province.

On the closure, chief executive Sharon White said in a statement: ‘In 1994, Stephenson Harwood became one of the pioneering international law firms to set up in Guangzhou. Since then, the legal landscape in China has changed considerably and we have decided to cease operating in Guangzhou.

‘Notwithstanding the cessation of our practice in Guangzhou, we will continue to maintain strong ties with the city. Our former colleagues are in the process of setting up an independent PRC law firm. We expect to maintain a close working relationship with this firm, when established.’

Stephenson Harwood recently opened an office in Seoul and earlier this year received formal approval to work with Singapore firm Virtus Law.

Others seeking to boost their Asia presence include Hogan Lovells, which has announced the hire of Paul Hastings project finance head Joseph Kim to its Tokyo finance practice. Joining the firm today [16 September], Kim will work as a partner in the infrastructure, energy resources and projects (IERP) team. According to the firm, Kim has ‘strong contacts’ with global clients including Standard Chartered Bank, Marubeni, K-Exim and K-Sure, and he will ‘strengthen [the firm’s] Japan and Korea outbound investment and financing offering as well as promote [its] global capabilities for projects involving Japanese and Korean cross-border investment projects’.

His hire follows that of Kirkland & Ellis corporate partner Steven Tran to Hogan’s Hong Kong corporate practice. As revealed by Legal Business, the firm last week also saw the departure of its business restructuring and insolvency practice head, Neil McDonald, who joined Kirkland & Ellis around the same time.

On Kim’s arrival, global finance head Sharon Lewis, said: ‘Joe’s expertise is highly sought after in the Asia market – Japanese and Korea based financing is playing an increasingly important role in global infrastructure transactions and his presence on the ground in Tokyo will be a great asset in furthering the reach of our IERP practice globally’.

Legal Business

LB100: The Second Quartile – Close Hauled


It’s an unforgiving environment, but 2014 once again shows the well-captained mid-tier outfits sailing free.

‘I’m a great believer that you can always do better and however good a particular year was, you have to exceed that. And we are far from perfect.’ So says Simon Beswick, managing partner at Osborne Clarke (OC), one of the strongest performers in the Legal Business 100 (LB100) this year.

The Bristol-based firm saw turnover rise 26% in 2013/14 – the largest single increase in the LB100 – and has seen revenue rise by 69% since 2009.

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood gets licence to open Seoul office


Stephenson Harwood will open its Seoul office in autumn this year after the Korean Ministry of Justice awarded the firm a licence to practice in the region.

Although a late entrant to launch in the burgeoning Seoul market, the firm’s interest in the region first emerged when it applied for a licence earlier this year in a bid to boost its marine, international trade and ship-finance work in Seoul.

The firm also hired DLA Piper’s local office head and litigation partner Michael Kim in February 2014 to oversee the management of the office following its opening. So far, Kim has been based in the firm’s London headquarters and will now relocate to the new branch in South Korea.

The launch comes as the firm looks to increase its footprint across the Korean shipping, ship building, finance and trade sectors. Kim has experience in shipping, ship finance, shipbuilding and offshore and general commercial litigation and arbitration matters. Key mutual clients of both the firm and Kim include the Export-Import Bank of Korea, STX Corporation, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Merchant Marine.

Since the liberalisation of the legal market in 2012, Seoul has drawn the likes of Baker & McKenzie and Cleary, Gotlieb, Steen & Hamilton, which in 2013 acted for local private equity house MBK Partners on its €1.24bn acquisition of ING Life Korea.

Kim said: ‘Korea is a key market for Stephenson Harwood and one where both the firm and I personally have many clients. Our new office will enable us to further strengthen our presence and provide closer contact to these clients.’

Stephenson Harwood chief executive officer Sharon White added: ‘We are very pleased to have received approval from the Korean Ministry of Justice. South Korea is a very important market for us and having Michael head our new office further bolsters our presence and capability in the region, bringing us closer to our clients and the local market. The new office will create further business opportunities for our existing offices and associations in Asia and for our wider international business.’

Stephenson Harwood already has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Singapore, and a formal law alliance with Virtus Law in Singapore. The firm also has associations with U Tin Yu & Associates in Myanmar and Christian Teo Purwono & Partners in Indonesia.

The firm will officially open the Seoul office once it obtains the additional regulatory clearances required.

Legal Business

Serious Fraud Office settles first Tchenguiz case for £3m with a further £3m in costs


The high profile Tchenguiz brothers’ lawsuit against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for around £300m has finally settled after the SFO agreed to pay Vincent Tchenguiz £3m.

The SFO will pay £3m to Vincent within 14 days and a further £3m towards costs within 21 days after reaching the agreement on Friday 25 July.

Stephenson Harwood commercial litigation partner Sean Jeffrey represented Vincent Tchenguiz in the case, and replaced Shearman & Sterling rated litigation partner Jo Rickard who previously represented property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz earlier this month. Jeffrey also added Catherine Newman QC of Maitland Chambers to the Tchenguiz brothers list of barristers, which includes Joe Smouha QC of Essex Court Chambers and Alex Bailin QC of Matrix Chambers.

The separate civil damages claims brought Tchenguiz and his associated interests remain to be settled.

SFO director David Green QC said: ‘I am pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter without the need for a costly trial. The SFO deeply regrets the errors for which we were criticised by the High Court in July 2012. On behalf of the SFO I apologise to Mr Tchenguiz for what happened to him. The SFO has changed a great deal since March 2011, and I am determined that the mistakes made over three years ago will not be repeated.’

The claims came after the SFO’s initial investigation led to warrants for a public raid on the Tchenguiz’ properties involving 135 police officers. The investigations were however dropped and in judicial review proceedings in 2012, when the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files, on the basis they were improperly obtained.