It takes a lot to stun a lawyer, most of whom have seen everything (and billed for the experience). But there’s still some disbelief across the City this morning as rivals digest today’s news that Slaughter and May, one of the UK biggest law firms, has taken the Treasury for a cool £22m in fees during the last year for ‘financial stability-related services’. Cheap at twice the price, we’re sure you’ll agree.
In a written answer to a query from Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott, City Minister Lord Myners was forced to admit that Slaughter’s lawyers had racked up this enormous bill advising the Treasury on its various rescues of basket-case banks, from Northern Rock to RBS. Meanwhile most of the other firms in the so-called ‘magic circle’ of swanky lawyers failed to get their snouts anywhere near the trough, as sharp-trottered Slaughter hogged the lot: the most any rival gleaned from the Treasury was a paltry £1m. ‘The Treasury should have driven a far harder bargain,’ huffed Lord Oakeshott.
The key player in Slaughter’s Treasury relationship is Charles Randell, who MT can vouch is a charming and cerebral individual, with a self-deprecating sense of humour and one of the biggest houses in Dulwich. And he certainly has plenty to smile about at the moment. ‘The work Charles is doing is the most interesting a corporate lawyer has had in a decade,’ a senior M&A lawyer at a rival firm told The Times. ‘Any one of us would love to be doing what he’s doing.’ You don’t say.
Of course it was always going to be the case that lawyers would feed on the swill of the crash for many years. That’s what they’re there for. MT overheard one the other day saying that the complex web of failure left behind by the collapse of Lehman Brothers will keep him in business until he retires. He’s in his 40s.
And Slaughters have been the smoothest of smooth outfits for many years, as MT found out when we interviewed the last senior partner, the legendary Nigel Boardman - a man who made his lookalike Francis Urquhart from 'House Of Cards' look like the Archangel Gabriel...
In today's bulletin:
Woolies goes online - and it still has pic'n'mix!
Treasury Slaughtered for £22m in legal fees
Undercover Boss tells MT why he took the risk
Habitat twit errs on Twitter
Editor's blog: Ryanair's hopeless case