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January 16, 2009 4:26 PM

LETTER FROM LONDON: Skadden Launches European Investigations Practice

Posted by Richard Lloyd

Readers of The Am Law Daily have become accustomed to stories of Am Law 100 firms striving to get their bankruptcy practices in order. One recent example: on Monday we reported on Michael Sage, the cohead of restructuring at O'Melveny & Myers, moving to Dechert, the latest in a line of lateral moves that have reflected the economic climate.

The white-collar crime bar hasn't been quite as active--except, it seems, at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. In December the U.S. giant added three partners to its New York practice from Clifford Chance, including the Magic Circle firm's former white-collar head, John Carroll. That was followed this week by an announcement that the firm had moved Gary DiBianco from Washington, D.C., to London to lead a European corporate investigations practice.

A three-year partner, DiBianco, 40, has of late seen his practice take on a more multinational dimension.

"Over the last few years many of the investigations have taken on an international aspect either because the company is outside of the U.S. or because it's an American company with international operations," he says. "There is also a growing amount of cooperation between countries' regulatory bodies."

In recent years, for instance, Skadden's practice has picked up work for the likes of French banks BNP Paribas and Société Générale--the latter following the huge trading losses run up by Jérome Kerviel.

"We have a growing number of attorneys working on European investigations and now we're launching a focused practice group to coordinate what we already have and to leverage off our U.S. practice," says DiBianco, whose role will be to coordinate and perhaps grow the firm's existing resource. He declined, however, to offer a precise figure for the number of attorneys involved.

Nothing exemplifies the growing international nature of white-collar cases better than the investigation into a bribery scandal of Siemens. Last December the German company was hit with a $1.34 billion fine by U.S. and German authorities following a two-year investigation led by Debevoise & Plimpton.

The Debevoise team, headed by New York partner Bruce Yannett, pocketed some $270 million in fees. Yannett insists that the firm is ahead of the curve in its European white -ollar practice; given the Siemens case it's hard to argue with him. By moving DiBianco to London, Skadden clearly hopes a few similar-sized instructions will now come its way.

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