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United States > Finance > Asset finance and leasing > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Asset finance and leasing
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

  1. 1

Clifford Chance’s asset finance practice provides ‘genuinely excellent legal advice’ and is ‘clearly worth the money’. The highly reputed and ‘very knowledgeable team’ has longstanding experience in assisting investment banks, export credit agencies (ECAs), investors, airlines and aircraft leasing companies with all aspects of asset finance and leasing matters, and demonstrates particular cutting-edge expertise in securitizations and equipment trust certificate (EETC) issuances. In a recent highlight on the securitization front, practice co-head Zarrar Sehgal advised Goldman Sachs on the issuance of $556m of senior secured asset-backed loans by Apollo Aviation Securitization Equity Trust 2014-1, and on the M&A side, practice co-head John Howitt led a team that represented Milestone Aviation Group, the world’s largest helicopter leasing company by fleet value, with its $1.78bn sale to GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). The New York-based, four-partner group also receives a steady stream of work from AWAS, and recently assisted the prominent aircraft leasing company with its first private placement term loan worth $350m. The firm’s blue-chip client base also includes BNP Paribas, LATAM Airlines Group and new client Global Jet Capital. The ‘very experiencedEmily DiStefanofocuses on the important issues’ and is ‘always calm and collected’.

Widely recognized in the aviation industry for its deep asset finance and leasing expertise, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP’s 20-strong transportation and space team is frequently involved in the market’s most prominent transactions, and has a particular strength in EETC deals. Acting for banks and underwriters, the 2015 caseload included several highlights: Elihu Robertson and James Pascale assisted Morgan Stanley and other underwriters with a $1.1bn EETC offering, and Credit Suisse Securities and Deutsche Bank Securities with a $1.2bn EETC offering, both by American Airlines. In other work, Pascale assisted Magnetar Capital with the $600m purchase by an entity advised by the client of a ten-aircraft portfolio from AerCap Holdings, and practice head Drew Fine and Helfried Schwarz represented AWAS and its owners Terra Firma and CPP Investment Board in an agreement to sell a $4bn portfolio of 90 aircraft to Macquarie Group. Other key clients include Apollo Aviation, AirAsia X and Citigroup. All attorneys mentioned are based in New York.

Vedder Price’s ‘excellent’ global transportation finance team stands out for its ‘impressive industry knowledge’, ‘deep and broad experience’ and ‘outstanding business acumen’. With 21 partners in the US alone, the team is highly adept at advising high-profile clients in the aviation industry as well as the rail and maritime sectors, where it provides experience in transactional and regulatory matters. The group recently assisted longstanding client Export-Import Bank of the US (EXIM) with the issuance of $1.2bn of EXIM guaranteed bonds for multiple airlines and operating lessors to finance aircraft and other equipment. It also acted as lead counsel to Macquarie Group in the $4bn purchase of a 90-aircraft portfolio from AWAS; this acquisition represented the largest transaction in the aviation sector in 2015. Highlights in the rail industry included advising Macquarie Bank on the sale of Macquarie Rail assets to First Union Rail, and in EETC work, the group represented Air Canada in the $1.03bn EETC financing of nine Boing 787 aircraft. The ‘extremely knowledgeable and bright’ Dean Gerber leads the practice from Chicago, where the recommended Josh Gentner and Geoffrey Kass are also based. In New York, Denise Blau ‘makes tax aspects absolutely understandable’ and Mehtap Cevher Conti was promoted to the partnership. The Los Angeles team was further strengthened by the arrival of Raviv Surpin, who joined from AerCap.

Strongly recommended for its ‘excellent response times, industry knowledge and value for money’, Holland & Knight LLP’s asset finance and leasing team has a particularly good track record in the aviation and shipping sectors, where it advises international banks, sea and air carriers, leasing companies, ECAs and multinational companies on the entire spectrum of asset finance transactions. Spread over the firm’s New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco offices, the group has lengthy experience in both domestic and cross-border matters, with a particularly strong focus on Latin America. Notable highlights included assisting Aircastle with the multimillion-dollar purchase and leaseback of ten new A320 aircraft from Brazilian carrier Avianca Brazil as well as of a new A330 aircraft from Colombia’s Avianca. In other major cross-border mandates, the team advised BBAM Aircraft Management on a $1.2bn aircraft portfolio securitization and sale to a Bermuda entity, and acted as Marshall Islands’ counsel to Deutsche Bank regarding a $3bn revolving senior secured credit facility used to refinance debt relating to the acquisition of four drilling rigs by Seadrill. Clients also include Citibank, Southwest Airlines and Wilmington Trust. In the New York office, Phillip Durham ‘knows the issues inside out’ and ‘is keen to get the deal done without having to prove that he is the smartest guy in the room’, practice head John Pritchard and Richard Furey are both ‘excellent’ and Fred Bass is also recommended. Further expanding its West Coast presence, the firm hired Brian Daigle and of counsel Ronald Goldberg in Los Angeles, who both joined from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Clients appreciate Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP’s ‘great industry knowledge’ of both aviation and shipping and the ‘very good value for money’. The firm’s offices in Europe, Asia and Australia support a global practice, which in the US is headed by James Tussing in New York. The ‘excellent’ transport and asset finance team handles a continuous flow of aircraft portfolio acquisitions and sales, leasing, and financings for major clients such as AWAS and Apollo Aviation. In notable highlights, the ‘deeply knowledgeable and practicalSean Corrigan led advice to Emirates on the first ever ECA-backed Sukuk (Islamic bonds), the proceeds of which ($913m) were used to finance four Airbus A380; he also assisted LATAM Airlines as borrower with a $250m engine portfolio financing. The ‘very experiencedBrian Devine and Brad Berman add significant expertise in ship finance to the team; in a recent highlight, Devine advised ABN AMRO Bank and Citibank as lenders on a $760m fleet financing. Other key clients include Deutsche Bank, Citibank and Air Canada. Alyssa Marie Vazquez made partner in 2015 and focuses on aviation finance.

In 2015, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP’s ‘very good’ transportation finance group welcomed the arrivals of Barry Biggar in New York and the ‘very knowledgeable and hard-working’ Jason Greenberg as special counsel in Los Angeles, while New York-based Daniel Richards made partner. In a year of change, it also saw the departures of capital markets and structured finance experts William Bowers and Peter Morgan to Winston & Strawn LLP. Despite the upheaval, the group continues to have an impressive profile in the market and assists numerous (mainly foreign) airlines, commercial and investment banks, leasing companies and manufacturers. Proving once again its particular strength in debt financing and leasing, the team recently represented BNP Paribas and structuring agent Goldman Sachs as joint book-runners in a $667m multi-tranche 144A debt issuance by AIM Aviation Finance Limited, and advised Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale and a syndicate of participant banks on the $210m lease financing of three separate B777F aircraft acquired by third-party equity investors. Other 2015 highlight work included closing the world’s first Japanese yen-denominated EETC transaction for Turkish Airlines’ $125m financing of three new Airbus A321 aircraft. New York-based Mark Lessard jointly heads the practice with Thomas Zimmer, and Charlotta Otterbeck is also recommended.

White & Case LLP recently grew its global asset finance practice with the hire of Jessica Zhou from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in Hong Kong, who brings considerable experience in US-based structured financings in the aviation and rail sectors. While the new arrival contributes to the group’s steadily growing strength in complex cross-border deals, the US-based team continues to be increasingly active in EETC matters for both domestic and international carriers. In a notable highlight, Ji Hoon Hong assisted Atlas Air with the $223m partial refinancing of three EETC transactions, involving a redemption of all of the equipment notes related to five aircraft. Elsewhere, the team advised Citibank as administrative agent on a $1.15bn credit facility for American Airlines, consisting of a revolver of up to $400m and a term loan of up to $750m. Highlight matters in the shipping sector included assisting United Arab Shipping Company with a $240m enhanced maritime trust certificate (EMTC), and advising Nordea Bank Finland on a $581m senior secured credit facility to Gener8 Maritime Subsidiary II to refinance existing debt of General Maritime related to 25 tanker vessels. Christopher Frampton and Chris Hansen head the practice from New York and Miami respectively.

Headed by the highly regarded John Curry, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP’s global aviation practice has seven ‘very strong’ partners and three counsel with longstanding experience in financing and capital markets, restructuring, fleet transactions and M&A. The team is particularly known for its representation of domestic and international airlines and recently assisted Spirit Airlines with its $576.6m 2015-1 EETC offering and Delta Air Lines with its $500m 2015-1 EETC offering. Longstanding client American Airlines also continues to rely on the team’s financing expertise: in 2015, the group advised the industry heavyweight on several mortgage financings and facilities and also represented the client as lessor in separate leases of a large number of vintage E145 aircraft to Trans States Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines. In other cross-border aviation work, the group advised CHC Helicopter on a $145m asset-based revolving credit facility. Counsel Raymond Wells and Le Lam are also recommended. All mentioned attorneys are based in New York.

Entirely focused on the aviation industry, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP has an impressive track record advising high-profile US and international investment banks and leasing companies (such as Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AWAS) and leading domestic and foreign airlines on aviation financing structures, including EETCs and ABS. In a major highlight, Washington DC’s particularly visible Steven Chung advised on the formation and financing of joint venture Blackbird Capital - between Air Lease Corporation and Napier Park Global Capital - which will spend approximately $2bn acquiring new aircraft by the end of 2016. Other highlights included representing Wells Fargo as trustee, operating bank and security trustee in a $667m aircraft asset-backed securitization for Deucalion Limited and in a $261m aircraft asset-backed securitization for AWAS. In another leasing highlight, New York-based practice head John Hoyns assisted United Airlines with its agreement to lease up to 25 used Airbus A319 aircraft from AerCap.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLPtends to stand out due to its expertise level’ and ‘offers tremendous value’ in the form of ‘extensive legal and business acumen’, ‘personable, coherent advice’ and ‘an eye for detail’. With a particular focus on the aviation and rail industries, the mainly New York-based team, which clients consider ‘deep enough to take on large and sophisticated transactions’, is adept at advising on complex domestic and cross-border matters. In 2015, the group advised Philippines-based carrier Cebu Air on the $105m sale and leaseback of six Airbus A319 to Allegiant Air, assisted Limex Sicar with the $15m acquisition of a new Citation XLS aircraft from Cessna, and represented 328 Group, a collection of aviation companies, in its $90m sale to SNC International. Highlights in the rail sector included assisting Credit Suisse with a $100m bridge loan secured by freight railcars and leases to Longtrain Leasing II, and subsequently representing the client as structuring agent and initial purchaser in a Rule 144A $625m offering, the proceeds of which were partly used to refinance the bridge loan. ‘Extremely experienced and creative’ practice head Michael Mulitz has ‘outstanding business insight’ and ‘always listens to your needs’, and Chicago’s William Fellerhoff attracts praise for his ‘good understanding of issues and commercial thinking’. Henry Morriello and Kurt Skonberg are also recommended.

Latham & Watkins LLP’s structured finance and securitization group has a superb reputation for its asset finance and leasing expertise and regularly handles securitizations of rental car fleets, cell tower assets and aircraft. In recent highlights, practice head Kevin Fingeret and Graeme Smyth led advice to American Airlines as issuer in a $1.06bn EETC offering for the financing of 21 aircraft and on a separate $1.2bn EETC offering to finance the purchase of 28 aircraft; the duo also advised Citigroup Global Markets as initial purchaser on a $712m sub-prime automobile loan securitization. Other work included assisting Guggenheim Securities as arranger with a $200m structured bridge loan to Vertical Bridge to acquire a portfolio of broadcast towers and related assets from iHeartMedia. All attorneys mentioned are based in New York.

Mayer Brown has longstanding experience in assisting with railcar and aircraft financings, with particular expertise acting for lenders. The group, led by New York-based George Miller, recently represented Credit Suisse as an agent for a $1bn syndicated railcar warehouse facility, advised Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Global Markets as initial purchasers on a Rule 144A $500m offering by BNSF Railway, and assisted Bank of America Merrill Lynch with a proposed $270m interim financing of the acquisition of rolling stock for the All Aboard Florida passenger rail project. Other recent work includes advising on EETCs and lease securitization structures. Julie Gillespie in Chicago is another name to note.

Shearman & Sterling LLP’s well-established asset finance practice covers advice on the whole spectrum of securitizations and structured finance across multiple asset classes, ranging from solar equipment and real estate to automobiles and aircraft. Based out of New York, the 11-partner Americas structured finance group is jointly headed by Joshua Thompson and Bjorn Bjerke, and recently welcomed counsel Charles Thompson from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, who brings additional capital markets expertise to the table. In a major 2015 highlight, the team assisted OneMain Financial as sponsor with a $3bn warehouse variable funding note securitization of consumer loans. Other key clients include Citigroup, General Electric and Société Générale.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP fields a five-partner lease and transportation financing group, led by Alan Brenner, which advises vendors, lessors and lenders on aircraft finance transactions and cross-border operating leases, among other things. In 2015, the team handled a diverse mix of matters, including representing JPMorgan and Barclays as lenders in the $2bn refinancing of Delta Air Lines, comprising a $500m term loan and a $1.5bn revolving credit facility, and advising JLL Partners on the financing of its acquisition of Aviation Technical Services. In another major highlight, the team assisted several underwriters and arrangers with multiple financing matters related to Air Lease Corporation, including a $600m public offering.

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