Global Restructuring Review - Cross-border restructuring and insolvency legal news, features and events

GRR 100 2019

Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson

15 May 2019

Advising Sberbank in its International Bank of Azerbaijan challenge

Global heads of restructuring and insolvency: Brad Eric Scheler
Partners in restructuring team: 5
Restructuring lawyers in Who’s Who Legal: 2

History of the practice

Although its predecessor firms date from the turn of the 20th century, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson's current incarnation with five name partners came into being in 1971.

The firm's restructuring and insolvency practice, led by long-time New York partner Brad Eric Scheler, has been around in the US since those early days, but it received a massive cross-border boost in 2016 with the hire of Ashley Katz in London. The former joint head of Mayer Brown's UK R&I team who is licensed to practise in England and Wales and South Africa, Katz brought with him a wealth of experience that includes advising financial institutions with exposure to Lehman Brothers and MF Global.

Fried Frank poured further resources into the team with the promotions of Peter Siroka to partner and Julia Smolyanskiy to special counsel in the US, and in Germany by hiring Christian Kleeberg – an M&A partner with restructuring experience from Taylor Wessing in April 2016.

Fried Frank also has at its disposal several experienced of counsel including Jean Hansen and Bonnie Steingart in New York. Hansen retired from the partnership in 2012 after nearly 30 years as a fee-earner at the firm, while Steingart had been a partner since 1986.

Network

The five partners who practise restructuring and insolvency law exclusively are based in New York and London. The wider firm also has offices in Washington, DC and Frankfurt.

Who uses it?

Creditors, debtors and all other types of stakeholders – including third-party purchasers – in US, UK and cross-border matters.

The firm acted for Goldman Sachs as equity holder and lender to metal component manufacturer Constellation Enterprises, and Canadian environmental company Tervita Corporation in Chapter 11 cases.

Goldentree Asset Management, real estate investor Vornado Realty Trust and US holding company CIT Group have all called upon Fried Frank’s services in the past.

Debtor clients have included Mexican supermarket Contraladora Comercial Mexicana, US publisher Rand McNally & Company and UK broadband company Telewest.

Recent events

Katz and disputes partner Justin Michaelson are leading a team representing Russia's Sberbank, which hopes to enforce rights in a US$20 million term facility agreement with the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) in the UK courts. Sberbank opposes IBA’s bid for a global moratorium to carry out its restructuring, citing the century-old English Gibbs rule.

On 18 December 2018, The England and Wales Court of Appeal denied IBA's request for an indefinite moratorium on the creditor claims, directing it to pay costs worth £270,000 for the failed appeal. The IBA's foreign representative Gunel Bakhshiyeva said she would take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile in 2018, Fried Frank advised Goldman Sachs in the restructuring of the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corporation (COFINA), and Centerbridge Capital Partners as exit financier to Seadrill.

In the UK, the firm also advised on company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) for football facilities company Powerleague Group, and for restaurant chain Gaucho.

In October 2018, partner Matthew Roose left the firm for Ropes & Gray in New York. He had joined Fried Frank as an associate in 2006 and worked on the US$42 billion Chapter 11 of Texas power company Energy Future Holdings, as well as representing distressed investors in the 2008 collapse of US bank Washington Mutual.

Associates Bryan Cimala and Corey Flick joined Fried Frank in September 2017, followed by associate Ola Majiyagbe in March 2018. Meanwhile, associates Alix Brozman, Alysa Ain and Nancy Bello left the firm between May and October 2018.