Hello and welcome back to the Fides Weekly Update. Here you’ll find a summary of what’s been happening in your industry this week.
For a brief round-up of the key developments, scroll down to take a look our regular ‘Movers & Shakers of the Week’ feature.
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1). Axiom proceeds with stock exchange listing
Leading alternative legal services provider Axiom Law is to become the latest in a raft of firms to tap into the public market for investment as it is set to list on the New York Stock Exchange.
The announcement did not reveal the size of the stake being offered, but entry to the New York Stock Exchange would create a significant expansion of the publicly listed legal services sector.
While Axiom is not a regulated law firm, it employs some 2,000 lawyers and other professionals globally, providing services to half the Fortune 100 companies. With the firm’s global figures totalling $360m (£280m), UK revenues neared the £50m mark last year, up from £30m in 2015.
The firm has expanded in recent years via more traditional routes including a series of acquisitions and joint ventures. In 2016 it acquired the general counsel business of Toronto-based law firm Cognition, adding a team of almost 50 lawyers and a client roster that included 60 global corporations. Late last year it also entered into a strategic collaboration with LegalWorks Nordic to service customers in the region.
However, the firm also announced that it has spun off two of its divisions into independent companies in preparation for the move; data analytics arm Knowable and legal solutions platform Axiom Managed Solutions. These businesses will pursue their own separate investment strategies according to a statement released by the firm.
Axiom’s decision to list on the New York Stock Exchange comes after a string of deals in the New Law space, demonstrating the growing power of alternative legal services providers in the sector.
CVC Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in UnitedLex last year, in what is believed to be the largest investment in the legal market ever at $500m. Elevate has also been on acquisition spree, adding Asia-Pacific flexible lawyering service Cognatio Law and UK business Halebury this year
Closer to home, DWF has joined several law firms moving to offer an alternative business proposition by cementing its aim to float on the London Stock Exchange.
2). Standard Chartered sets aside $900m for fines in US and UK
Standard Chartered has set aside $900m to cover potential fines connected to investigations in the US and the UK, the bank said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The $900m provision will cover potential penalties related to “historical violations of US sanctions laws” and “previously disclosed investigations relating to [foreign exchange] trading issues”.
This comes ahead of the bank reporting its full-year results, expected next week.
Fines for which the $900m provision have been set aside for include the £102.2m fine by Financial Conduct Authority in relation to historic financial crime controls.
The bank also agreed earlier this month to pay $40m in fines to settle claims from US authorities that bankers were involved in chat rooms that tried to manipulate the price of emerging markets currencies as early as 2007.
The largest regulatory fine however is that from US regulators who are seeking to impose a penalty of about $1.5bn on the bank for alleged sanction breaches involving Iran-based clients of its Dubai branch.
Discussions with the US on a deferred prosecution agreement have been taking place since 2012 and have been extended twice during that time.
US authorities have been probing whether the bank continued to breach sanctions by processing US dollar transactions for Iran-controlled entities even after it signed a deferred prosecution agreement and paid a $667m fine to avoid criminal charges in 2012, with negotiations still continuing.
Shares in Standard Chartered fell about 1.1 per cent in yesterday morning trading in Hong Kong, but largely recovered to HK$63.75 ($8.12) by early afternoon.
While the bank has traded up slightly since the start of the year, it is still more than 60 per cent below its five-year high of HK$164 in May 2014 before it launched a major shift in strategy under former chief executive Peter Sands.
3). Movers & Shakers
CMS partner departs for senior post at energy giant
Freshfields names new private equity leaders
Howard Kennedy scraps CEO role as it rejigs top team
Squire Patton Boggs partner trio quit to join former London head
Three London Squire Patton Boggs partners have left the firm to join US rival Crowell & Moring, reuniting with former City head Robert Weekes.
HSF targets New York expansion with hire of Hogan Lovells’ employment head
Barbara Roth, who has led the Hogan Lovells employment practice for nearly a decade, now plans to build HSF’s US practice in the US.
Charles Russell Speechlys snares partner duo for arts law foray
The new practice is to be spearheaded by partners Tim Maxwell and Rudy Capildeo from Boodle Hatfield
Mergers & Alliances
Three-way merger creates new Spanish law firm
Ashfords and Boyes Turner walk away from £60m merger
Office Openings & Closings
Association of Corporate Counsel opens in Brussels to attract European members
Cooley targets 40% City growth and office move by 2021
Top management pay at Norton Rose Fulbright drops almost 45%
Akin Gump London revenue leaps by nearly a third as Reed Smith also posts increase
Cadwalader blames restructuring exits as London revenue drops 13%
Shearman’s revenue closes in on $1bn barrier
Akin Gump City revenue soars past $100m mark
Inclusion & Diversity
As chosen by GCs: the best law firms for diversity
Linklaters settles ‘ongoing struggle with women’ claim
Innovation and Technology
AI Platform Luminance Teams with EY Law in Global Deal
Legal tech patent filings rocket fourfold since 2013
CMS’s tech incubator goes global in push for more start-up members