S&C’s breadth helps law firm climb M&A ranks

By Paritosh Bansal

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Wall Street law firm Sullivan & Cromwell climbed five spots in rankings of legal advisers in deals globally, helped by its breadth of coverage in a year when a wide range of sectors saw M&A activity.

Senior Chairman Rodgin Cohen, who is himself an adviser to many of the Street’s top financial services companies, said deal activity could pick up next year if the economy improves and countries refrain from putting barriers to the flow of capital.

“There is an awful lot of pent-up demand. So if things don’t go south economically, I can see a pretty decent year in M&A,” Cohen said in an interview.

S&C, which installed a new chairman earlier this year, came in No. 2 in the law firm M&A league tables, advising on $230.2 billion worth of deals. That’s up from No. 7 over the same period last year with $218.7 billion in deals globally, Thomson Reuters data through December 14 shows.

Rival Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom topped the league tables for the second year in a row, with $262.8 billion in deals so far, the data shows.

Cohen cautioned against reading too much into any one year’s rankings: “This is not about a single year. It’s a very, very rough metric.”

In the past five years Sullivan & Cromwell has taken the top spot twice — the last time in 2008, when the firm played a large role in financial services restructuring.

Cohen and his team were fighting nearly every major crisis that year, as they advised companies ranging from Lehman Brothers Holdings (LEHLQ.PK: ) and American International Group (AIG.N: ) to Barclays PLC (BARC.L: ) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N: ).

NEW CHAIRMAN

Cohen ran the firm from 2000 to 2009 before handing over the day-to-day management to Joseph Shenker, who took over as chairman on January 1.

Shenker, who was a vice chairman since 2006, has pushed hard on S&C’s international presence as a senior executive, Cohen said. S&C, which is more than 130 years old, has 12 offices globally and is headquartered in New York.

“If you look at our major deals this year, so many of them had an international aspect,” Cohen said.

These include advising billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil in its $27.5 billion purchase, including debt, of Carso Global Telecom as well as AIG in the $16.2 billion sale of foreign life insurer Alico to MetLife Inc (MET.N: ).

HIRING PLANS

Sullivan & Cromwell has been one of the few Wall Street firms to keep hiring through the financial crisis.

“Some people felt that it was necessary to have an impact on the short-term profitability,” Cohen said, adding that S&C took a longer view and didn’t cut back on our hiring.

The firm, which has 800 lawyers, typically brings in 100 to 125 summer interns, and hires another 100 to 125 associates for permanent positions in the fall. A high percentage of summer interns tend to get hired for permanent positions, he said.

It also usually names around five partners every year.

“That’s what we are doing next year,” Cohen said.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

S&C’s breadth helps law firm climb M&A ranks