Legal Business

The Co-operative Bank

  • General counsel and company secretary: Brona McKeown.
  • Team headcount: 21 lawyers.

With the bank mired in controversy for much of 2014, the legal team at The Co-operative Bank has received recognition and admiration within the industry for ‘ably managing the bank’s legal affairs during a particularly challenging time’.

This is no understatement: in March 2013 the bank reported losses of £600m and two months later Moody’s downgraded its credit rating to below investment grade. Chief executive Barry Tootell resigned in the summer and negotiations between The Co-operative Group and its regulator, the Prudential Regulation Authority, resulted in reports that the bank had a £1.5bn shortfall in capital. Further scandal emerged over its governance that led to the resignation of chairman Paul Flowers, and the health of the bank was called into question after stress tests in December showed a severe economic shock would exhaust it.

The legal team has been cited by a Magic Circle firm for its outstanding ability to manage affairs amid the turbulence. It is led by the former interim GC of Coventry Building Society Brona McKeown, who took over from former Allen & Overy partner Alistair Asher in 2013, after he was appointed to head the legal function across the entire Co-operative Group.

Heavyweight names in the team include head of treasury legal, Adam Moy, a former GC at Close Brothers Group and lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who is responsible for legal and regulatory risks across the business units. Others include disputes head Lesley Wilkinson, the former head of professional negligence at Optima Legal and manager of regulatory change at HBOS, and senior solicitor David Travis, who qualified at DLA Piper and previously worked in-house at Citigroup and RBS International. He now leads the commercial team that is responsible for the negotiation of major supply contracts, and major projects, including the strategic separation from The Co-operative Group.

It is further credited for work done on the £400m capital raising exercise last March, which led to a number of investors, including hedge funds Silver Point and Perry Capital, further investing in the share capital of the bank, in addition to ongoing regulatory shifts and inquiries in the banking sector.