Posts

Baker McKenzie bolsters tax practice with hire of Stephanie Pantelidaki

Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie has hired Stephanie Pantelidaki as Head of Financial Services Transfer Pricing in the firm’s tax practice. Stephanie joins from PwC, where she has worked in both the firm’s United Kingdom and Switzerland offices.

Stephanie has over twenty years’ experience advising on transfer pricing and international corporate tax issues with a particular focus on financial services – having worked with leading institutions in banking and capital markets, investment management, and the insurance sectors.

She started her career in academia as an economic adviser and research fellow at London Business School, and went on to work for organisations including Andersen, KPMG and Baker McKenzie (2006-2009) where she helped establish the Transfer Pricing team in the London office.

Mark Delaney, head of Baker McKenzie’s tax practice in London, said: “Stephanie is a truly exciting hire for Baker McKenzie. We’re seeing increased demands from financial institutions for transfer pricing works and her skills and expertise will enable us to deliver an even better service for our clients.”

Alex Chadwick, Baker McKenzie’s London Managing Partner, said: “We’re welcoming Stephanie back to Baker McKenzie at a great time, with opportunities in abundance for continued growth across the tax practice. Her experience, crossing academia and finance, mean she will bring a lateral-minded point of view to the team. She’s going to be a fantastic asset to us.”

Stephanie’s hire follows a number of recent significant lateral appointments including Leveraged Finance partner Ben Wilkinson, who joined Baker McKenzie from White & Case, M&A partner Nick Rainsford, who joined from Ashurst, private equity partner Justin Hutchinson, who joined from Kirkland & Ellis, Adam Eastell a partner from Slaughter & May and Nick Bryans, also from Ashurst.

Pinsent Masons grows its Financial Services offering in Dubai

Multinational law firm, Pinsent Masons, has appointed Banking & Finance partner Matthew Escritt to lead the firm’s Banking & Finance practice in the Middle East, based in Dubai.

Matthew joins from Norton Rose Fulbright, where he has been for the past 19 years, with the past eight spent as partner in the banking and finance team. During this time he has worked in London, Moscow, Bahrain, Singapore and Dubai.

Matthew is a banking and finance specialist, advising on all areas of structured cross border finance, including syndicated lending acquisition, development finance, asset finance, vendor finance, and structured trade and commodity finance. He is familiar with both conventional and Islamic finance funding structures. He also advises on financial restructuring and insolvency mandates. Based in Dubai, he will be leading the Banking & Finance practice in the Middle East (within the Finance & Projects group) and will focus primarily on clients in the Financial Services sector.

Commenting on Matthew’s appointment, Michael Watson, head of the Finance & Projects group at Pinsent Masons said: “Matthew’s reputation precedes him and we look forward to welcoming him as head of our banking and finance practice in Dubai. His experience and expertise will greatly strengthen the practice, enabling them to deepen relationships with existing clients as well as developing new ones. His appointment is another fantastic addition to our growing international capabilities.”

Alexis Roberts, head of the Financial Services sector at Pinsent Masons added: “Matthew’s appointment is a pivotal one in increasing our financing bench strength and will enable us to better support our clients within the Financial Services sector. His breadth of experience and the clients that he’s worked with will allow us to grow our offering across the sector. We greatly look forward to him joining the team.”

Matthew Escritt, head of Banking and Finance in the Middle East added: “I am excited to have been given the opportunity to lead Pinsent Masons’ Banking & Finance practice in the region and to be part of an international team tasked with growing a strategically important practice area to complement the firm’s existing strengths. It will also ensure that we are able to provide vital, full-service support to our clients as they navigate today’s challenging business environment. Given the diverse talents of the individuals involved and the well-known strengths of the existing practice I am confident that we are well placed to achieve our goals.”

Adding to the growing multinational Finance & Projects group, Matthew’s appointment follows that of Anthony Morton in Frankfurt, James Harris in Asia, Jim Hunwick in Sydney and Eran Chivka in Paris.

Reports of market manipulation hit 822

822 reports of suspected market manipulation were made to the FCA last year (year end Dec 31 2019) by market participants, suggesting that the problem is far from being eradicated*, says RPC, the City-headquartered law firm.

Market manipulation is the attempt to artificially increase or decrease the price of an asset, index or its derivative in order to make a gain. Following the LIBOR scandal that broke in 2012, the laws relating to market manipulation were significantly tightened up. This included criminalising the attempted manipulation of benchmarks (Financial Services Act 2012).

Market manipulation has been investigated by regulators in a wide range of asset classes, including bonds, Forex, oil, gold, silver, palladium and platinum. However, 60% of reports to the FCA last year related to suspected manipulation of equities and equity derivatives.

RPC says that reports of market manipulation are likely to have been made by brokers, trading houses and fund managers who identify suspicious price movements or order flows being posted by other market participants.

Simon Hart, Partner in RPC’s Banking and Financial Markets Disputes team says: “These statistics show that market manipulation has not gone away as a problem.”

“Whilst banks, brokerage firms and other market participants have significantly improved their compliance controls over the years, it is clear that problems remain. However, the very existence of better internal systems and controls may itself be leading to more concerns being identified and reported.”

“It is often in periods of major market turbulence that more serious examples of market manipulation get unearthed.”

“Market manipulation does not need to be on the scale of the LIBOR or FX for there to be a negative economic impact on other innocent market participants. Every distorted market carries a cost for someone.”

High profile instances of market manipulation since the 2008 financial crisis include:

  • The Forex Cartel, which resulted in six international banks being fined a total of $5.6bn for participating in cartels in the foreign exchange markets
  • The LIBOR scandal, which saw UK regulators levy substantial fines on the investment banks. The scandal has also led to the replacement of LIBOR with SONIA.
  • Precious metals – Barclays was fined US $43.8m for attempting to rig gold prices. In the US a number of banks and their traders including BAML have been fined or charged over attempted manipulation of precious metals.

Richard Lewis and Emily Reid featured in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 list

Hogan Lovells litigation partner, Richard Lewis, and Head of Financial Services, Emily Reid, are featured in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 list, published today.

The prestigious list from leading UK legal magazine The Lawyer celebrates the most innovative and creative lawyers in the UK from private practice, in-house and the Bar.

Richard Lewis was recognised by The Lawyer for his work on complex CIS-related matters such as his ongoing work on the PrivatBank case against its former owners Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov. He has also recently picked up a major new mandate in the Kazakhstan Kagazy litigation.

The Lawyer commented: “In the UK legal market, Hogan Lovells litigation partner Richard Lewis is the go-to guy for complex CIS-related matters.”

Emily Reid heads the Hogan Lovells Financial Services practice and leads the Banking, Lending and Payments practice. Innovation has always been a significant part of Emily’s practice from her ground-breaking work on the UK’s first ever debit card to advising Zopa, the world’s first peer-to peer lender and challengers, such as Curve, on bringing their ground breaking products to market.

The Lawyer commented: “In the tech community, Reid is a fairy godmother for early-stage companies, leading a mentoring programme that each year provides 10 fintech-focused start-ups with £25,000 worth of free legal advice. In 2020, she will capitalise on that knowledge by encapsulating it into chatbots that will answer client queries automatically 24/7.”

Richard and Emily commented: “It is a privilege to be considered among the best lawyers in the UK. We are both delighted with today’s recognition.”

Why haven’t more firms embraced advisory services?

The revenue opportunity in advisory work is huge, and it’s more sustainable as a business. But the number of firms that have successfully achieved this holy grail is still very small: Arguably, only 5 to 15 percent have even come close).

One of the major problems is that ‘advisory’ is an extremely poorly defined concept. What it actually means in practice varies hugely depending on who is offering it and who is receiving it. And if you don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end, how do you even start trying to deliver it?

The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple, and most accountants already have the necessary skills and knowledge. It is, however, a question of mindset. This interview between Andy North and Peter Hickey, Founder and President of MAUS, offers some brilliantly simple words of advice.

Being an “advisor” is more about the questions you ask than the answers you provide. “Think of yourself as a sports coach,” says Peter. The goals you’re trying to achieve should be set by your client – and your objective is to help them break them down and hold them accountable.

And what tips does Peter have for the accountant struggling to make sense of all this? “Start with succession planning.” The conversations you can have with a client as they start to consider their exit from their business can create clear opportunities for you to help.

Accenture acquires award-winning global advisory firm

Accenture has acquired Parker Fitzgerald, a strategic advisor and consulting partner to leading global financial institutions, further enhancing the business and technology capabilities within its Finance and Risk practice. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2008 in response to the global financial crisis, Parker Fitzgerald advises financial services companies on financial and non-financial risk, regulation and financial technology. The firm provides strategic advice, independent assurance and market-leading solutions to help clients navigate risks, reduce operational complexity and improve their overall risk-adjusted performance.

Parker Fitzgerald’s advisory and assurance expertise and regulatory experience will complement Accenture’s consulting and technology capabilities and strengthen Accenture’s client response to the evolving risk landscape in financial services.

“Financial services companies continue to contend with the impact of economic and geopolitical uncertainties, regulatory challenges and digital transformation,” said Tara Brady, who leads Accenture’s Financial Services practice in the UK “Parker Fitzgerald has a successful track record helping clients navigate ever-increasing disruption and uncertainty, and the combination of their risk advisory and assurance expertise with Accenture’s consulting and digital capabilities will be a strong differentiator, enhancing our services to UK financial institutions.”

Scott Vincent, founder and CEO of Parker Fitzgerald said, “Helping clients optimise their performance in a rapidly evolving risk environment remains our utmost priority. Accenture’s tremendous scale and scope, coupled with their data- and technology-focused expertise in finance and risk, will enable us to expand our geographic reach and provide high-quality services to an even-broader client base.”

Peter Beardshaw, who leads Accenture’s Financial & Risk practice in the UK, said, “Parker Fitzgerald’s skills, approach to financial risk management and long-standing regulatory relationships are at the heart of the risk management agenda and will enable us to provide clients with an even greater level of risk and assurance services and solutions.”

About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions — underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network — Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 482,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives.