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Vinson & Elkins LLP

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Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Houston and 10 more

Karen Smith

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Vinson & Elkins LLP

Work Department



Karen's practice concentrates on acquisition, project, and structured finance transactions. She has represented domestic and international banks and financial institutions, developers, investors and private equity funds in connection with the financing, acquisition, development, construction, operation, and privatization of a wide range of capital-intensive projects in the oil and gas, electric energy, petrochemical, renewables, telecommunications and public infrastructure sectors. Karen has counseled clients in all phases of acquisition and project financings, including initial structuring and contract negotiation, financing and post-financing matters. She has extensive experience in structuring complex multi-tranche financing transactions, including domestic and cross-border commercial bank and institutional loan and security documentation, Term Loan B, ABL and Rule 144A financings, and related intercreditor arrangements.


  • Member: American Bar Association, New York State Bar Association


Karen graduated from Lafayette College, B.A. Economics and B.A. Government in 1984, and Cornell University, J.D. in 1987. Admitted to New Jersey Bar in 1987, New York Bar in 1988, and District of Columbia Bar in 1989.

United States: Finance

Project finance

Within: Project finance

Vinson & Elkins LLP is highly regarded for its expertise in handling finance mandates relating to energy and infrastructure projects. Kaam Sahely, who jointly heads the energy, transactions and projects department with John Connally, is advising Woodside Petroleum on its potential participation, as co-sponsor with Sempra, in the $10bn Port Arthur LNG project; he is also advising Gulf Coast Ammonia on the $800m development and project financing of a hydrogen-based ammonia production facility in Texas. Maritza Okata and Karen Smith in New York advised Tyr Energy, alongside Trina Chandler and Washington DC-based Katy Gottsponer, on the financing and development of the Hickory Run Energy Center, a natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Smith also advised Babson Capital Management on the $34.5m purchase of secured promissory notes issued by nine subsidiaries of Cypress Creek Renewables for the permanent financing of each issuer's utility-scale tilt solar array project in North Carolina. Mark Spradling, Mark Brasher and Keith Fullenweider are also recommended, as are New York-based David Wicklund and John Grand in Dallas. Senior associate Simone King in New York is also a key figure, as is Eamon Nolan who joined in 2019 from Linklaters LLP. Named individuals are based in Houston unless stated otherwise. Former department co-head James Cuclis joined White & Case LLP in 2018.

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