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  1. Employee share schemes
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The β€˜first-rate’ team at Allen & Overy LLP excels in the financial services sector, where it acts on high-risk remuneration matters and executive incentives at a domestic and international level for clients including Virgin Money, Prudential Financial and Aviva. β€˜Extremely commercial’ practice head Paul McCarthy recently advised Worldpay Group, The Gym Group and McCarthy & Stone on the share incentive aspects of the clients’ individual IPOs.

Clifford Chance LLP’s β€˜first-class’ incentives department β€˜stands out as one of the best share schemes practices in the market’ with β€˜a strong grasp of the law’. Practice head Sonia Gilbert is noted for her β€˜real ability to cut straight to the answer’ and for her β€˜grit, stamina and substance in the face of tremendous pressure’. Gilbert recently advised National Australia Bank on the share plan elements of its Β£1.5bn demerger and IPO of Clydesdale Bank. Senior associate Liz Pierson β€˜works with pace and agility, ensuring every detail is thoroughly considered’.

Simon Evans leads the practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, and led advice to Telecity Group on the impact of its acquisition by Equinix on its share arrangements. Other key names include Nicholas Squire, who is part of the team acting for Anheuser-Busch InBev on the share scheme elements of its takeover of SABMiller Group; and newly promoted partner Alice Greenwell. Jocelyn Mitchell retired in 2016.

In addition to its β€˜exceptional transactional practice’, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP also stands out for its expertise in financial services remuneration. Recent highlights include advising PA Consulting Group on the impact of a proposed investment by The Carlyle Group would have on its share arrangements, and assisting Sky with its acquisition of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia and the extension of its employee ownership scheme. Paul Ellerman leads the department, which includes Mark Ife.

The β€˜excellent’ Gillian Chapman leads Linklaters LLP’s β€˜outstanding team’, which is β€˜head and shoulders above most practices’. The firm acts for a high-profile client base that includes BAE Systems, Anglo American and Lloyds Banking Group, and recently advised SABMiller on share scheme issues relating to its acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Clients praise β€˜consummate expert’ Alexandra Beidas and counsel Graham Rowlands-Hempel, who is β€˜always professional’.

Boutique firm Tapestry Compliance LLP, which has offices in London and Yorkshire, has seen substantial growth in the last year, both in the size of the team and the client roster; new clients include eBay, N.M. Rothschild & Sons and AIA Group. The department attracts praise for its β€˜unprecedented service levels’ and β€˜pragmatic and to-the-point advice’. Clients single out β€˜superb’ practice head Janet Cooper and the β€˜excellent’ Bob Grayson.

Baker McKenzie LLP’s extensive global footprint makes it a natural choice for cross-border matters. Jeremy Edwards (β€˜a genuine expert’) leads the practice, and recently assisted Prudential with the launch of its global share plans. Other clients include Deutsche Bank and Accenture. Senior associate Alasdair Friend is β€˜a pleasure to deal with’. Stephen Ratcliffe was promoted to partner in 2015.

CMS’ β€˜very responsive and creative’ practice is notably strong in transactional matters; the team advised Advanced Computer Software Group on the share scheme elements of its acquisition by Air Bidco, an investment vehicle indirectly owned by Vista Partners. Nicholas Stretch leads the practice.

Hogan Lovells International LLP’s β€˜outstanding’ practice is led by Paul Randall, who joined from Ashurst in mid-2016 and took on the role of practice head from Louise Whitewright, who retired in the same year. The department is particularly noted for its β€˜excellent international practice, especially with US clients’, and acts for clients including SABMiller, Liberty Global and Virgin Media. β€˜Very helpful’ counsel Kiran Khetia is also recommended.

Jonathan Fenn leads Slaughter and May’s β€˜very responsive’ practice, which provides β€˜well-thought-through and knowledgeable solutions’ to a client list that includes 3i Group, Carillion and Rolls-Royce.

Travers Smith LLP has had a strong transactional year; highlights included advising Ball Corporation on the share scheme elements of its Β£4.3bn acquisition of Rexam, and assisting Nikkei with the incentive aspects of its Β£844m acquisition of The Financial Times Group. Practice head Mahesh Varia β€˜applies his knowledge astutely and effectively’.

The β€˜experienced and pragmatic’ Michael Carter leads Addleshaw Goddard LLP’s β€˜extremely proactive and knowledgeable’ practice, which is noted for its β€˜highly professional manner’. The team is experienced in employee shareholder status implementation and also has transactional and advisory expertise.

Eversheds LLP’s practice is headed by Mathew Gorringe and includes Danny Blum, who is noted for his β€˜excellent technical knowledge’. The department is recognised for its cross-border strength and recently acted for Triumph Group on the expansion of its restricted stock awards into multiple jurisdictions.

Fieldfisher’s key names include Mark Gearing, who recently led advice to Recruit Holdings on the shareholder equity arrangements arising from its acquisition of Hotspring Ventures; and Graeme Nuttall, who is a leading figure in employee ownership structures. Clients also recommend senior associate Jennifer Martin and corporate partner Neil Palmer.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s department is led by the β€˜highly practical and down-to-Earth’ Matthew Findley, who joined from Pinsent Masons LLP in 2016. He takes over the role from Monique Beaulieu following her move to Grant Thornton UK LLP. The team is especially strong at global share plans.

Lynette Jacobs leads Pinsent Masons LLP’s department, which is β€˜very good on all counts’, and is particularly strong in matters with an international element. Clients include Imperial Brands, William Hill and Pace. Legal director Suzannah Crookes is also recommended. Former practice head Matthew Findley joined Norton Rose Fulbright.

Simmons & Simmons’ practice leverages the firm’s global network to act on multi-jurisdictional matters. Its strength in financial services is reflected in a client base that consists of Old Mutual, Brookfield Asset Management and Swiss Re. Ian Fraser leads the department.

Nicholas Greenacre (who is noted for his β€˜good balance of deep technical knowledge and strong commercial acumen’) leads the β€˜responsive and practical team’ at White & Case LLP, which recently advised Miniclip on the share scheme elements of its sale of a majority stake to Tencent Holdings.

Macfarlanes LLP’s practice provides comprehensive coverage of both transactional and standalone share scheme issues; highlights included assisting Appleby Group with the share scheme elements of the sale of its fiduciary business to Bridgepoint, and advising Liontrust on the implementation of three bonus deferral schemes. Rob Collard leads the team.

Consultant Andrew Stanger leads the practice at Mayer Brown International LLP, which has expanded its focus on sweet equity and scheme arrangements in private equity structures. Recent highlights include advising Entertainment One on the implementation of an executive incentive plan.

The team at Birmingham-based boutique firm Pett Franklin & Co. LLP is led by Stephen Woodhouse and chartered accountant William Franklin, and includes highly regarded name partner David Pett. Clients include Xtrac, Aquascot and Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP.

β€˜An expert in the area’, Postlethwaite Solicitors Ltd β€˜provides knowledgeable and practical advice in a clear and understandable way’. The firm acts on all share scheme issues, and is particularly experienced in employee ownership. Robert Postlethwaite leads the practice, which includes David Reuben, the β€˜very personable’ Stephen Chater and the β€˜always efficient’ Judith Harris.

Sarah Priestley’s team at Shearman & Sterling LLP recently advised Vitruvian Partners on the share scheme aspects of its acquisition of CRF Health, and assisted GMT Communication Partners with the sale of Seagull Group. Corporate tax specialist Simon Letherman was promoted to partner in 2016.

Stephenson Harwood’s β€˜highly commercial team’ is led by Barbara Allen (β€˜a leader in the field’) and includes β€˜excellent’ senior associate Anika Chandra. In an illustration of its work for AIM-listed companies, the department recently advised AIM-listed client Focusrite on the implementation of a management incentive plan following the client’s IPO.

Taylor Wessing LLP has a strong international client base, particularly US clients investing in the UK. Recent highlights include advising Mimecast on equity incentives following its NASDAQ IPO. The β€˜incredibly responsive and vastly experienced’ Ann Casey leads the β€˜excellent’ team, which includes β€˜extremely calm, organised and effective’ senior associate Anna Humphrey.

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Legal Developments in London for Employee share schemes

  • Companies should plan now to minimise their pension protection levy

    The amount that pension schemes have to pay to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) for the year 2006/07 may have increased by as much as five times the previous year's levy. Employers who ultimately bear the cost of many pension schemes will need to make plans now to ensure the levy payable for the year 2008/09 is kept to a minimum.
    - Stephenson Harwood

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