GRR 100 2021

Mayer Brown

Mayer Brown

Professional notice

Advising the Guernsey-appointed liquidators of construction company Joannou & Paraskevaides

Global heads of restructuring and insolvencyMichael Fiddy, Brian Trust, John Marsden, Adam Paul
Partners in restructuring team69
Restructuring lawyers in Who’s Who Legal1
Active cross-border restructuring and insolvency matters76

History of the practice

With over 50 lawyers stationed in the UK, France, Germany, the US, Brazil and across Asia, working alongside the firm’s other practice teams, Mayer Brown can handle bigger matters than the size of its staff would normally allow.

The firm boasts one of the oldest bankruptcy practices in the US, which has advised parties in situations of financial trouble for more than a century.

Its Asia practice – established 25 years ago and now led by 20-year veteran partner John Marsden – is one of the most respected in the region and has acted on many seminal cases locally, such as the liquidations of nine of Lehman Brothers’ Asian entities and the multi-jurisdictional restructuring of industrial fishing group Pacific Andes. In the early 1990s, the firm also represented the special managers of the Hong Kong branch of BCCI in one of the first major cross-border global bankruptcies.

The London team has handled some equally big instructions, including as lead counsel before the UK Supreme Court in the conjoined cases New Cap Re v Grant and Rubin v Eurofinance, which dealt with whether a foreign court’s judgment adjusting or setting aside prior transactions or preferences can be enforced in England.

The firm’s presence in Brazil dates back to 2014, when it established an association with local firm Tauil & Chequer Advogados. Under senior partner Leonardo Morato, Tauil & Chequer in association with Mayer Brown has acted in nearly all major bankruptcy cases in Brazil in recent years, including those of telecoms group Oi, construction company OAS and oil company OGX.

Together with Marsden, New York partner Brian Trust, London partner Michael Fiddy and Chicago partner Adam Paul co-head the global restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency practice. Paul moved over from Kirkland & Ellis in August 2019.

Other names to know include partner Amy Jacks in London, who moved to Mayer Brown from DLA Piper with Fiddy in March 2019 and now co-chairs the European restructuring group with fellow London partner Devi Shah.

Network

The firm has the highest number of restructuring and insolvency partners stationed in London and New York, with more in Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. It also has partners in Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Houston, Paris, Singapore, Washington DC and Chicago.

Who uses it?

Each regional practice at Mayer Brown has its own distinct characteristics.

In addition to the Lehman Brothers and Pacific Andes cases, Mayer Brown’s Asia team had roles in the bankruptcies of Chinese property developer Kaisa and electronics group Z-Obee, acting for the largest bilateral financial creditors and the petitioning creditor respectively.

The firm’s UK team, meanwhile, has a reputation for acting on large energy and resources restructurings taking place in Africa, the US and Brazil. ATP Oil & Gas and EY (as company voluntary arrangement supervisors of Alpha Petroleum Resources) have both been clients of the London team. It is also known for advising on retail and pensions restructurings, including those of department store BHS and shoe retailer Brantano; and it assisted the pension scheme trustees of oil and gas company BG Group and Woolworths.

In Germany, the recent addition of partners with private equity and real estate experience has strengthened the firm’s focus on banks and private equity investors.

In the US, the firm focuses on creditors’ rights, particularly for institutional debtors. It also acts for distressed investors in acquisitions. PNC Bank and PNC Capital markets are repeat clients, having reached out to Mayer Bank to represent them as administrators and letter of credit issuers under certain asset-backed debtor-in-possession and securitisation facilities in the Chapter 11 bankruptcies of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

Bank of New York Mellon is also a repeat client and is currently using Mayer Brown while acting as trustee of notes issued by Brazil’s Oi Group in its judicial reorganisation process, as well as trustee of notes issued by Chinese solar wafer manufacturer LDK Solar.

The firm has also represented Deloitte as bankruptcy trustees in Brazilian judicial reorganisation proceedings more than once.

Other big clients include advisory firms Alvarez & Marsal, KPMG, AlixPartners and FTI Consulting; and banks and financial institutions JP Morgan Chase, Commerzbank, Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank.

Historic track record

Acting for Malaysia’s Maybank, a primary bank creditor of the Pacific Andes group, a team from the firm persuaded a Singapore court that moratoriums under section 210 of Singapore’s old Companies Act were not available to debtors incorporated outside Singapore. The decision put a spotlight on the legislation, which has since been reformed.

Another recent success saw Mayer Brown work for the petitioning creditor in Z-Obee’s bankruptcy, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. Provisional liquidators were initially appointed in Hong Kong; but after realising that a restructuring would be more favourable, Z-Obee opted to transfer the case to Bermuda to circumvent Hong Kong’s Legend precedent. Hong Kong and Bermuda courts sanctioned the transfer in February 2017 and the Bermudian liquidators were recognised in Hong Kong soon after, effectively bringing Bermuda’s more modern restructuring regime into Hong Kong.

Going further back, Mayer Brown’s work for the liquidators of the nine Asian Lehman entities required collaboration between teams in Asia, the US, Germany and London on claims by and against the investment bank’s Hong Kong estates. The firm played a key role advising the liquidators as chair and counsel to the Lehman estates which were signatories to the Lehman Global Protocol – a multilateral cooperation protocol signed by representatives in seven countries – and helped them to negotiate complex, multibillion-dollar inter-company claims arising from derivatives transactions, failed trades, exchange close-outs and treatment of proprietary interests. The firm also had to address novel contractual rights disputes that came before the courts in Hong Kong and London relating to security interests that were purportedly afforded to entities not party to the governing documentation.

In 2013, Mayer Brown obtained the first Chapter 11-style stay from an English court in the context of a scheme of arrangement, in what was also the first-ever scheme for a Vietnamese company, Vinashin. The shipbuilder used the English scheme to exchange a US dollar-syndicated loan with fixed-rate guaranteed notes issued by Vietnam’s Debt and Asset Trading Corporation that were listed on the Singapore stock exchange.

The firm was also the advocate for the majority members of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) EMEA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee, in the first-ever use of an external review process to test whether a “governmental intervention credit event” had occurred in respect to credit derivatives of Portuguese bank Novo Banco. Mayer Brown and their clients successfully argued that it had not, in a ruling that set a precedent for the interpretation of ISDA master agreements and the external review process.

Acting for the liquidators of New Cap Reinsurance in the joint New Cap Re v Grant and Rubin v Eurofinance cases, Mayer Brown convinced the UK Supreme Court to enforce an Australian preference judgment on the grounds that the lending syndicate had submitted to the Australian courts’ jurisdiction.

A Mayer Brown team also helped affiliates of HSBC to recover outstanding loans from Brazilian meatpacking company JBS within four months of being instructed. The bank was keen to avoid getting involved in a Brazilian restructuring process after JBS’s parent company was fined US$3.2 billion in a plea deal over a corruption scandal in 2017 that reached the top of Brazilian politics and saw an indictment against the country’s president. This wasn’t the first time that the firm advised HSBC affiliates in Brazil: it previously acted for the bank on the restructuring of loans to OAS Group, after it was linked to the Lava Jato corruption scandal.

In 2018, Marsden and fellow partner Terence Tung advised the joint liquidators of BVI media company Supreme Tycoon in a precedent-setting case in which a Hong Kong court recognised their appointment in a voluntary winding-up, rejecting the 2014 Privy Council decision in Singularis that common law assistance is only available for foreign involuntary winding-ups. The Hong Kong Court of First Instance granted a recognition order in February 2018.

Recent events

In London, Allen & Overy’s head of global corporate lending Trevor Borthwick joined Mayer Brown’s global banking and finance practice in May 2020, and restructuring partner Barry Cosgrave moved from K&L Gates four months later. Mayer Brown also brought in several other lawyers throughout the year, including multiple associates, while promoting Pierre Dzakpasu in Singapore and Sheena Frazer in London to the partnership.

Meanwhile, partner Jessica Walker left the firm for Latham & Watkins in June 2020.

The personnel changes continued in 2021, with the firm hiring New York partner Lucy Kweskin from Proskauer Rose, along with Foley & Lardner trio Doug Spelfogel and Leah Eisenberg in New York and Derek Wright in Chicago. The firm, however, lost Bangkok partner Maythawee Sarathai to Hunton Andrews Kurth.

Top cases of the research period

Fiddy and Jacks advised Hong Kong-based Baring Private Equity Asia on its takeover of homeware retailer Cath Kidston’s brand name, franchise, wholesale and e-commerce platforms through a newly established company, CK Acquisitions. The sale took place using a pre-packaged administration process in the UK in April 2020.

The firm represented agents for bank syndicates in the ongoing Chapter 11 proceedings of Irish helicopter leasing company Waypoint. Trust is part of the New York team working on the matter.

Mayer Brown’s London and New York teams advised Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank in connection with the renewal and upsizing of five existing loan facilities with certain African subsidiaries of Pyxus International, an international tobacco producer that restructured through a pre-pack Chapter 11 plan in August 2020.

Fiddy, Jacks, Shah and Frazer are also part of a Mayer Brown team acting for Alvarez & Marsal as the Guernsey-appointed liquidators of construction company Joannou & Paraskevaides, in a multi-billion restructuring that has required advice in the UAE, Cyprus, Greece, Guernsey, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

The firm’s 2021 work includes the Chapter 11 proceedings of Greensill Capital Inc, a US arm of the collapsed trade finance group. Mayer Brown counsel Craig Reimer in Chicago is acting as the company’s special counsel.

Client comment

Ned Kleinschmidt at RPA Advisors in New Jersey has worked with Mayer Brown on several large restructurings in the energy industry in recent years, and describes the team as “very thorough, attentive to client needs and proactive on all issues”. 

“Distinguishing them from their competitors, I find that Mayer Brown does a superior job in leading creative thought processes and explaining complex legal issues to their clients in very understandable terms,” he says. “Mayer Brown also seamlessly integrates a variety of legal disciplines in a very practical manner when needed to accomplish the goals of the situation/clients.”

Kleinschmidt has worked with Trust and fellow New York partners Scott Zemser and Joaquin de Baca in particular. “They are collectively strategic and practical in their approach at legal issues and are always ahead of the curve and exceed expectations of their clients,” he says. “They are a pleasure to work with.”

Mayer Brown is a distinctively global law firm, uniquely positioned to advise the world’s leading companies, financial institutions, investment and special situation funds on their most complex deals and disputes. With an extensive reach across four continents, we are an integrated law firm with market-leading practices in the world’s largest financial centres. Our “one-firm” culture—seamless across all practices and regions—ensures that our clients receive the best of our knowledge and experience.

Global Restructuring Group

The global Restructuring Group has more than 200 lawyers operating in jurisdictions across the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Clients value the fact that our practice is truly connected in the key global financial markets, has diverse industry experience, and allows clients to leverage the wider Mayer Brown platform, recognized as an international legal powerhouse. The team’s reputation for innovation, experience and managing complexity continues to be showcased in our award-winning work on landmark cases. We remain at the forefront of legal practice, implementing structuring in special situations and delivering advice, not just in distress, but as a way to maximize returns and deliver sustainable change.

Some of the industries we have worked in include: Aviation, Automotive and Transportation; Construction and Real Estate; Energy/Natural Resources; Financial Services; Healthcare; Hospitality; Manufacturing; Retail and Telecommunications.

The clients we advise include management boards; debtors; lenders (including debtor-in-possession lenders), bondholders and other creditors; insolvency appointees; pension fund trustees; and insurers.

Notable assignments include:

  • Genting Hong Kong. Acting for the seven-bank ad hoc steering committee, representing more than 30 bank lenders and credit-support providers to the Genting cruise business, on the restructuring’s proposed terms of agreement across a wider group of interested stakeholders.
  • Commercial Bank of Dubai. We represented the Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) in connection with the restructuring of McDermott International, a provider of engineering and construction for the energy industry.
  • Hertz. Represented a major international financial institution, as administrative agent, under the $1.6 billion Donlen ABS facility in the Hertz chapter 11 case and, as administrative agent, under a $400 million post-petition ABS facility with respect to the Donlen fleet-leasing business.
  • EA Partners I BV and EA Partners II BV. Representing the ad hoc committee of bondholders on the restructuring of US$1.2 billion in aggregate face value of notes issued by EA Partners I BV and EA Partners II BV securitising loans to Etihad PJSC, Etihad Airport Services, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Air Berlin and Jet Airways. 
  • Joannou & Paraskevaides (Overseas). Representing insolvency practitioners from Alvarez & Marsal Europe in connection with all aspects of their appointment as the liquidators of Joannou & Paraskevaides (Overseas), a construction company operating in the Middle East, Europe & North Africa. 
  • United Airlines, Inc. Represented Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC, as sole structuring agent and lead left arranger and bookrunner, and Goldman Sachs Bank, as administrative agent, on a first-of-its-kind $6.8 billion financing consisting of $3.8 billion of senior secured high-yield bonds and $3 billion of senior secured institutional term loans to MileagePlus Holdings, LLC, a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of United Airlines, Inc., with each of the loans and bonds secured by United Airlines’ loyalty program, MileagePlus, and subject to a parent guarantee by United Airlines, Inc. and United Airlines, Holding Inc. and guarantees by certain other subsidiaries of United.
  • Bogart Group. Successfully led negotiations for and on behalf of all eight banks and achieved substantial recoveries across both secured and unsecured exposures to the Bogart Group. This is a rare large bank-driven restructuring.
  • Huiyuan Juice. Represented the Hong Kong-listed debtor group in successfully defending against the appointment of provisional liquidators, with a view to allowing a restructuring of the group and its indebtedness rather than falling to liquidation on the petition of a creditor.
  • Baring Private Equity Asia. Representing Cath Kidston’s parent company, which bought the online, franchise and wholesale business of the brand after the retailer went into administration in April 2020.

Website: www.mayerbrown.com

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