18 Debevoise & Plimpton
Following on from the success of the firm’s strategic growth in London, where the transactional and disputes practices have really taken off, Debevoise & Plimpton is now focusing on Asia. The Hong Kong office became a local practice in October 2014 to broaden its services to clients and the firm has since focused on building its capabilities throughout the region with strategic hires in its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices.
The firm’s recent work in the region saw the Hong Kong office advise AIA Insurance Lanka, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based life insurer AIA Group, on the sale of its stake in AIA General Insurance Lanka to Janakashi Insurance for 3.2 billion Sri Lankan rupees.
- New York
PEOPLE AND PRACTICES
Debevoise & Plimpton’s investment funds practice is “world-class”. The firm has acted as counsel for sponsors of, or investors in, over 1,700 private equity funds worldwide, with committed capital of over $1 trillion. The firm recently advised Baring Private Equity Asia on the formation of a $4 billion fund, the Baring Asia Private Equity Fund VI, which was heavily oversubscribed.
The team advising on the fund was led by Hong Kong-based partner Andrew Ostrognai; chair of the firm’s private equity practice in Asia. With experience in forming a broad range of funds, Ostrognai is “much sought-after” in the region. Last year also saw the firm advising The Carlyle Group on its €3.75 billion Europe Partners IV Fund. Erica Berthou in New York led on the matter, with peers praising her “comprehensive understanding of the industry” and “strategic advice”. Jonathan Adler and Sally Gibson were also part of the team. Adler advises sponsors of funds including buyout, growth capital, energy, infrastructure and credit funds. Gibson in London is considered a “font of knowledge” on regulatory issues affecting the industry and is lauded for her “diligence”.
Debevoise is renowned the world over for its deep bench of dispute resolution specialists. Lord Goldsmith QC is a key name in London; he recently led the team acting for Belizean telecoms investors in long-running litigation over nationalised Belize telecoms and electricity companies. Goldsmith acted as lead advocate in the courts of Belize at all levels. In the field of arbitration, Debevoise recently defended the republic of Korea in the ICSID arbitration filed by IPICI and Hanocal. Sophie Lamb and David Rivkin were heavily involved in the matter. Lamb in London co-chairs the firm’s energy disputes group and has experience in arbitration and complex litigation. Rivkin is co-chair of the international dispute resolution group and a “stellar advocate”. He is “first choice” for many clients facing arbitration or litigation proceedings and is noted for his “unflappable manner” and “ability to put clients at ease”.
The firm’s white-collar and regulatory defence practice is home to leading business crime defence and investigations lawyers, many of whom have held government positions including US attorney general, attorney general of the UK, co-chief of the asset management unit of the SEC division of enforcement, and deputy assistant attorney general for the fraud section at the Department of Justice.
Deputy presiding partner of the firm and chair of the white-collar and regulatory defence practice group Bruce Yannett receives huge praise from peers and clients for his experience in business crime defence and investigations. He has handled a broad range of matters including securities fraud, accounting fraud, foreign bribery, cybersecurity, insider trading and money laundering. Matthew Fishbein also comes highly recommended due to his “measured and considered approach to matters” and “strong technical abilities”. He has tried over 25 criminal and civil cases in federal and state court and argued appeals in the Second Circuity and other appellate courts. His investigations work involves defending major international companies in multi-jurisdictional criminal investigations.
The firm has achieved two significant victories in the past year in its pro bono practice. One case involved the representation of a class of black and Hispanic sheet metal workers in litigation against their union, Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, regarding disparities in work opportunities between Local 28’s white and non-white members from 1991 to 2006. On 21 July 2015, the court approved an estimated $12 million settlement for the almost-400 class members who were affected. The second case resulted in President Barack Obama commuting the sentence of pro bono client David Padilla on 18 December 2015 under Obama’s clemency initiative. Padilla was serving a life sentence for non-violent drug offences as a result of a mandatory minimum that would not be applied today given subsequent policy changed. After serving 19 years, he is scheduled to be released from prison on 16 April 2016.
Diversity at the firm starts at the top: 40 per cent of Debevoise’s partner promotions in the last eight years have been women. Presiding partner Michael Blair is a director of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organisation of corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. The firm also supports diversity through programmes within the firm including affinity groups, bias training programmes and a diversity speaker series.