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United States > Investment fund formation and management > Mutual/registered funds > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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  1. Mutual/registered funds
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Who Represents Who

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Dechert LLP fields ‘a very accessible team that provides prompt, thoughtful and accurate responses’, and which attracts praise for its strength in depth: according to clients, ‘partners are practical and solutions-oriented’ while ‘its sizable team of associates is able to handle large projects with very good response times’. Washington DC-based Douglas Dick, whose clients include managers and broker-dealers, recently assisted a registered adviser with a corporate restructuring. In New York, Stuart Strauss and Allison Fumai (who are ‘extremely knowledgeable about ’40 Act funds and consistently provide timely, accurate advice’) act for a number of well-known ETF sponsors. Robert Helm in Washington DC heads the team along with Boston-based Christopher Harvey. Washington DC-based Adam Teufel was promoted to partner.

Ropes & Gray LLP acts for an extensive range of registered fund clients and attracts praise for its practical approach. Thomas Hiller and Sarah Clinton advise Grantham, Mayo Van Otterloo & Co on a variety of matters, including recently assisting with the registration of shares in GMO SGM Major Markets Fund under the Securities Act 1933 and the launch of GMO SGM Major Markets Series Fund, which will operate under a master-feeder structure. Bryan Chegwidden and James Thomas regularly advise Putnam Funds and its trustees on new product launches, including recently assisting with the launch of a mortgage opportunities fund. In San Francisco, Gregory Davis advises AMG Funds on a range of matters, including a hybrid fund launch allowing retail investors access to private equity funds, which required approval from the SEC and FINRA. Hillier and Chegwidden lead the practice, which includes David Sullivan and New York-based Michael Doherty, who are ‘both highly practical and solutions-oriented’. Doherty and John Loder act for Natixis and Loomis Sayles on their ETF launches, including a socially responsible fund, while Gregory Sheehan is advising the independent directors of Sequoia Fund on board governance issues and litigation arising from losses incurred in relation to its holdings in Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The independent trustees of JP Morgan ETFs and State Street Institutional Funds are also clients. Named attorneys, unless mentioned otherwise, are based in Boston.

Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP is praised for its ‘responsiveness, efficiency and industry knowledge’ and for its ‘ability to provide a variety of perspectives on complicated issues’. Bruce Leto (‘an outstanding lawyer: approachable, knowledge and always available’) acted alongside Washington DC-based Michael Mundt for Franklin Templeton on the creation of a smart beta fund, and for longstanding client Invesco on its selection by the State of Rhode Island to run its $7.4bn college savings program. In a new client win for the firm, Alison Fuller in Washington DC and Matthew DiClemente were selected to act as counsel to the independent trustees of BlackRock Equity-Liquidity Funds Board, which oversees $270bn of investments. The firm further strengthened its registered fund credentials with the recruitment of seven lawyers from K&L Gates, including David Glatz and Alan Goldberg, who established the Chicago office in March 2016. Client wins for the nascent Chicago office include Nuveen, which Glatz advised on two fund IPOs and on the sale of shares in five municipal bond funds; and Keeley Funds, which Goldberg advised on issues arising from the death of the founder of the fund complex, including two separate changes of control and the rationalization of the fund complex. SEC veteran Ruth Epstein, who is based in Washington DC, and Mena Larmour and Cory Hippler, who recently made partner, are also recommended. Unless otherwise mentioned, named lawyers are based in Philadelphia.

K&L Gates covers the gamut of ’40 Act fund matters. Michael Caccese, who leads the firm’s financial services practice, advised Federated Investors on issues arising from money market fund reform, including assisting with several fund mergers and the launch of a new fund in compliance with new money market fund compliance rules. George Zornada and Richard Kerr advised funds managed by Salient Partners and Forward Management on their integration following the acquisition of the latter by the former. In addition, Mark Goshko advised Eaton Vance on the launch of a closed-end high-yield corporate debt ETF. The firm has strong regulatory credentials, with the Washington DC office featuring a number of SEC alumni, including Robert Zutz, Mark Amorosi and Charles Miller. Clair Pagnano is another key figure. Other clients include John Hancock Investment Management Services and Wells Fargo Investment Institute. Unless mentioned otherwise, named attorneys are based in Boston.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP’s clients are quick to praise the firm’s ‘extensive knowledge of global regulatory, legal and industry trends’ and its ‘deep bench of seasoned experts, which enables it to provide detailed responses to all questions’. Washington DC-based John McGuire is advising State Street Global Advisors on a number of ETF launches, including its first ETF investing in RMB-denominated Chinese A shares, which have restrictions on ownership by non-Chinese investors. Thomas Harman (also based in Washington DC) has an extensive track record handling SEC regulatory matters. In Boston, Roger Joseph and Lea Anne Copenhefer advised Legg Mason on the restructuring of its money market funds to comply with new SEC money market rules and British FCA regulations, enabling it to open the funds to investors on both sides of the Atlantic. In another highlight matter, Philadelphia-based Timothy Levin advised Consulting Group Capital Markets on the consolidation of several of its funds.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is ‘excellent: highly responsive, with very knowledgeable and experienced partners and associates’. The firm handles a variety of matters including ETF formation, ’40 Act regulation, fund mergers and products at the interface of registered and alternative funds. Margery Neale, who has expertise in business development company matters, and Barry Barbash head the team, which includes Rose DiMartino, ‘a very experienced practitioner’ who handles SEC regulation, fund mergers and secondary offerings, among other matters. Benjamin Haskin and Dianne O’Donnell, who handle the structuring and formation of ETFs, are also recommended. Apart from Barbash and Haskin, who are located in Washington DC, named lawyers are based in New York.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP fields ‘a small group of very smart’ mutual and registered fund lawyers with particular strength in complex regulatory issues, as well as a track record assisting managers subject to SEC and state investigations. Nora Jordan handles a range of regulatory work; recent highlights include assisting several TCW Group funds in securing exemptive relief from the SEC for a proposed lending facility. On the manager M&A side, Gregory Rowland advised Huatai Securities on its purchase of AssetMark, and, on the fund formation side, Jordan and Rowland advised private fund manager Och-Ziff on the launch of a registered closed-end fund. Other clients include Pimco, which the firm advises on CFTC compliance matters.

Very knowledgeable of the laws and rules around ’40 Act funds’, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP’s team attracts praise for its input in independent board meetings, where it provides ‘wise counsel without pressurizing the trustees’. In an illustration of its traction among independent directors, practice head Joshua Deringer is advising the independent directors of RiverNorth Marketplace Lending Corporation, a novel fund which invests in loans generated by peer-to-peer lending. Michael Malloy, whose extensive knowledge of the industry stems from three decades of experience in ’40 Act matters, assisted the independent directors of Aberdeen Asset Management with the restructuring of its fund line-up, which involved the reorganization or liquidation of several funds. Manager-side highlights included Diana McCarthy’s advice to Northern Trust on the restructuring of its fund line-up in light of money market reforms. McCarthy also advised FlexShares on the creation of two new socially responsible ETFs. Other key figures include New York-based Stacy Louizos, who has ‘deep fund board experience’, and SEC veteran James Lundy, who joined the Chicago office from an in-house role at a brokerage firm. Unless otherwise mentioned, named lawyers are based in Philadelphia.

Goodwin’s ‘deep team’ attracts praise for its responsiveness and excellence in handling matters for independent trustees. Boston-based practice head Philip Newman is advising the trustees of Eaton Vance on the launch of NextShares, an actively managed ETF product, and Marco Adelfio is providing ongoing advice on governance and regulatory matters to the trustees of Invesco. In addition to its strong roster of independent trustee clients, the firm also acts for investment advisory companies such as Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors, which Thomas LaFond in Boston and Paul Delligatti advise on a range of issues, including separately managed accounts and ’40 Act regulation; and the Wells Fargo Funds, which the team advised on the formation of a number of target-date funds. Other practitioners of note include Christopher Palmer, who advised Prudential’s insurance fund complex on seven fund mergers, and counsel Thomas Early in the Los Angeles office, who acts for the independent trustees of Federated Funds. Kimberly Vargo left for Schiff Hardin LLP. Except where otherwise mentioned, named attorneys are located in Washington DC.

In a highlight matter for Paul Hastings LLP’s New York team, practice head Michael Rosella and of counsel Vadim Avdeychik, who joined from Pimco’s in-house team, advised Gabelli Funds on the creation of five ETFs, including a media mogul fund and a social responsibility fund. Rosella also assisted Tocqueville Trust with obtaining a no-action letter from the SEC to enable its gold fund portfolio to store bullion in the Brinks Depository. In the San Francisco office, the ‘diligent, responsive, knowledgeable and efficientDavid Hearth (for some, ‘the top registered funds lawyer on the West Coast’) advised the independent trustees of the RS Funds on the adviser’s acquisition by Victory Capital Management. Other clients include Eaton Vance. The firm further strengthened its West Coast capability with the recruitment of Yousuf Dhamee in Los Angeles from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.

Sidley Austin LLP attracts praise for providing ‘appropriate and accurate advice that works in the real world’. The ‘knowledgeable and commercialJohn MacKinnon led a team advising BlackRock’s money market funds on the purchase of assets from Bank of America’s money market funds. Frank Bruno (whose ‘understanding of the funds industry is second-to-none’) advised Nuveen Closed-Ended Funds on a $2.4bn offering of variable rate demand preferred shares. James Munsell advised Turner Investment, a new client, on several fund launches. All three named lawyers are located in New York.

Vedder Price’s clients rate its ‘excellent industry expertise’, which stems from an extensive track record on major fund launches. David Sturms (who has ‘wide-ranging industry and regulatory experience, and a great legal mind’) advised Nuveen on the merger of several of its ETFs, and assisted Invesco PowerShares with the launch of a bank loan ETF. Also recommended are Cathy Gonzales O’Kelly, whose clients include the independent trustees of Guggenheim Investments’ ETFs and mutual funds; Renee Hardt, who combines ‘strong technical skills with excellent legal and risk judgment’; and Washington DC-based Bruce Rosenblum, who advises Janus Funds on regulatory matters. Named lawyers are located in Chicago unless otherwise mentioned.

Morrison & Foerster LLP advises a number of ETF sponsors and trustees on regulatory matters. Jay Baris’ clients include the independent trustees of ProShares and KraneShares Trust, the latter of which he advises alongside Denver-based of counsel Kelley Howes. Other clients include Aberdeen Investment Funds and ALPS Holdings.

Shearman & Sterling LLP’s Nathan Greene regularly acts for independent trustees and funds, and has particular strength advising on registered funds of hedge funds. Highlights included advising Skybridge Capital II, a registered fund of hedge funds, and funds managed by Ironwood Capital Management on regulatory issues arising from the impending implementation of the new fiduciary rule. Greene is also advising Perella Weinberg Partners, which the firm has been working with on the mutual funds side since the manager’s entry into the market in 2014, on the launch of an ETF joint venture that will be actively managed and that will follow a hedge fund like investment approach.

A pleasure to work with’, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s funds team includes New York-based Sarah Cogan and the ‘smart, creative and responsive’ Rajib Chanda in the Washington DC office; they both assisted several funds managed by Blackstone’s GSO subsidiary with leverage transactions. Cogan also advised several of Legg Mason’s funds on a merger. Other clients include the independent trustees of Pimco and Allianz’s funds.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP handles a range of matters concerning ETFs and other mutual funds. Thomas DeCapo in Boston and Richard Prins in New York acted as issuer counsel to Gabelli Funds on various ETF IPOs, and DeCapo advised key client BlackRock on several fund reorganizations, including the merger of BlackRock Municipal Bond Investment and BlackRock Municipal Income Investment Trust. In Chicago, Kevin Hardy advised Advent Capital Management Closed Ended Funds on the negotiation of standstill agreements with activist investors in order to prevent a proxy contest at its annual general meeting. Michael Hoffmann, who advised Great Elm Capital Corporation on the purchase of a business development company, heads the practice from the New York office.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP is particularly noted for its advice to independent trustees, although the firm’s clients extend to managers, their funds and parties to regulatory investigations. Highlights included advising the independent board of the Bank of America Funds Series Trust on the sale of the fund’s assets to BlackRock. On the manager front, the team advised Dreyfus on the restructuring of its money market funds, while in the fund merger arena the firm advised the independent board members of The Zweig Fund on its merger with several funds advised by Virtus Investment Advisers. Other clients include JP Morgan Investment Management. The firm lost a number of partners to Proskauer Rose LLP, including Nicole Runyan, David Stephens, Stuart Coleman and former practice head Robert Plaze.

Sullivan & Worcester LLP is noted for its ‘on-point and practical advice’ and for its ‘superior knowledge of the law and industry’. Key figures in the practice, which has a particular strength acting for independent trustees, include David Mahaffey, who ‘understands clients’ needs, skill levels and obligations’ and acts for the independent directors of the TIFF Investment Plan; and David Leahy, whose clients include the independent trustees of Legg Mason Partners’ fixed-income funds. Both are based in Washington.

Thompson Hine LLP’s wide-ranging expertise includes advising on fund acquisitions and SEC regulatory matters. JoAnn Strasser in Columbus and counsel Tanya Goins in Atlanta advised Arrow Investments Trust on the registration of an actively managed ETF, while Columbus-based Michael Wible advised Boston Trust & Investment Management Company and Walden Asset Management on inter-fund lending.

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Legal Developments worldwide

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    On 7 June 2017, the official ceremony for the signing of the multilateral instrument (“MLI”) took place bringing to a close a process initiated last year when a consensus was reached on the wording of the MLI on 24 November 2016 (see also our newsflash dated 2 December 2016, available on our website www.arendt.com section Publications/Newsflash).
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