The Legal 500

Clifford Chance

United States

Top-tier recommendations


  • United States: Real estate and construction > Real estate

Latin America: International firms

Top-tier recommendations

United States: Finance

Within Asset finance and leasing, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Aviation finance is a core focus for Clifford Chance, which primarily acts for lessors, banks and underwriters. The highly esteemed New York practice, which is jointly led by John Howitt and Zarrar Sehgal, is considered ‘among the best’ for innovative cutting edge financings, particularly when it comes to bond underwritings and asset-backed securitization (ABS). The firm’s position at the forefront of the market was illustrated by its role on the Willis Engine Securitization, where it advised Credit Agricole Securities and Goldman Sachs as joint bookrunners on the issuance of $390m of senior secured notes by Willis Engine Securitization Trust II. The finance was secured against 79 aircraft engines acquired from Willis Lease Finance Corporation, and was the first aviation-related ABS for some time. On the lessor side - which has kept the firm very busy despite the economic downturn - the firm recently represented The Milestone Aviation Group, a major helicopter operating lessor, on the $355m portfolio financing of 32 helicopters. While airlines don’t make up a large portion of the clientbase, Geoffrey White is highly experienced advising clients on this side of the table. Most recently he represented LATAM Airlines Group on a landmark transaction relating to three issues of US Ex-Im Bank guaranteed bonds totalling $1bn. This was for the finance and re-finance of 12 aircraft and was the first time such bonds were issued on a pre-funding basis. Other major clients include AerCap, AWAS, BNP Paribas and FLY Leasing.

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Within Capital markets: debt offerings , tier 4

Clifford Chance’s experience lies on the manager side, and the firm acts for many financial institutions, including JPMorgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BNP Paribas. Alejandro Camacho and Jay Bernstein are recommended, and the team also features Andrew Epstein, Tony Lopez and Gary Brooks.

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Within Capital markets: equity offerings , Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

The capital markets team at Clifford Chance has considerable sector-specific experience in healthcare-related and REIT equity transactions. A team led by Jay Bernstein recently acted for the underwriters, including Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Securities and Wells Fargo Securities, in Chesapeake Lodging Trust’s issue of $130m common stock. Highly rated REIT expert Larry Medvinsky is one of the most respected attorneys in this area, and Jason Myers and Kathleen Werner are both highly experienced IPO specialists. Alejandro Camacho is also recommended.

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Within Capital markets: global offerings , Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

With offices throughout major cities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and a presence in Latin America, Clifford Chance continues to be particularly noted in the areas of REITS, covered bonds and healthcare, advising issuers and managers in both debt and equity offerings. A team from New York including Jonathan Zonis and Lewis Carey worked with the firm’s London office advising Deutsche Bank as arranger on the establishment by Panama-based Global Bank of a $500m covered bond programme. The team successfully advised the client on the first issue under the programme, a $200m five year Rule 144A/Reg. S offering in October 2012.

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Within Corporate restructuring (including bankruptcy), tier 6

The team at Clifford Chance is widely applauded as a ‘top choice for complex and cross-border restructurings’, not least because it can ‘marshal appropriate resources across the globe very quickly’. Lawyers ‘have a knack for untangling complicated legal and business matters and providing clear and concise explanations’ and are supported by ‘the firm’s broad practice that allows them to bring all relevant skills to the table, including litigation, derivatives and tax, whether in the US, Europe or elsewhere’. Led jointly out of New York by Andrew Brozman, who provides ‘thoughtful advice and fresh solutions to legal questions’, and Evan Cohen, the team also includes ‘star in the group’ Jennifer DeMarco who receives rave reviews for being ‘very commercial, practical and responsive’. The firm has a strong track record in distressed M&A and acted as bankruptcy counsel to Ocwen Financial Corporation on the successful bid by its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, for the mortgage servicing assets of ResCap. On the creditor’s side, it represented AerCap, and other creditors, in relation to the American Airlines chapter 11 filing. Other representative clients include Barclays Capital, Crédit Agricole and Commerzbank.

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Within Project finance, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

Clifford Chance’s seven-partner team is rated for its depth of knowledge and its ability to draw on the firm’s expertise in various jurisdictions, as well as its outstanding capabilities in providing advice to agencies, lenders and capital market providers in the multilateral debt financing arena. David Evans and Lori Bean have continued to be heavily involved in the Department of Energy’s Financial Institution Partnership Program; in 2012, they advised it in a $1.5bn financing guarantee for the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California sponsored by First Solar. Bean also assisted International Finance Corporation (IFC) with its $55m investment in a holding company that will invest in solar generation assets in India, Malaysia, South Africa and Thailand over two and a half years. The team also has a strong capability in Latin American project financings, particularly in the renewable sector; Fabricio Longhin is advising IDB, IFC, BNP Paribas and a syndicate of local banks on the B bond loan for the $1bn Reventazón hydroelectric project in Costa Rica. Longhin also represented Goldman Sachs as arranger on the project bond to finance the expansion of the Paita port in Peru, and Catherine McCarthy represented IDB, EKF, HSBC, Crédit Agricole, BBVA and BNP Paribas in the $693m financing of the Mareña Renovables wind farm in Mexico. The team also represents sponsors such as Acciona Energía, Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy and Conduit Capital. Christopher McIsaac, who co-heads the practice alongside Evans, is also recommended.

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Within Structured finance , Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

Clifford Chance’s ‘response times are very good, industry knowledge is very high, the strength-in-depth of team is excellent’. The New York group includes two partners, David Felsenthal and ‘intelligent, pleasant and very responsive’ Gareth Old, and the highly experienced senior counsel, David Yeres, who is ‘highly experienced and very fast in his responses’. The group attracts a steady flow of high-level advisory assignments as well as transactional matters. Recent instructions include advising various banks, including Capital Group, Standard Life Investments, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Wells Fargo and MAN Group on the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act, including the potential regulation of swap dealers and the treatment of swaps of all types. In a project valued at $5bn, Yeres is assisting iShares in developing and establishing a series of commodity-related exchange traded funds. Old was on the team which assisted Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (PIMCO) to resolve its clients’ exposure to Lehman Brothers’ entities in the US, UK and Germany; the work involved the resolution of several thousand financial transactions, including swaps and securities. The practice group has also acted for Perella Weinberg Partners, New Oak Capital, Munich Re, and Deutsche Bank.

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United States: Industry focus

Within Insurance: non-contentious, tier 5

Clients consult Clifford Chance’s insurance transactional and regulatory group because of its ‘knowledge and reputation’. The ‘overall level of service is high’ with a team that is ‘reliable’, has ‘depth’, and gives advice that is ‘astute, prompt and comprehensive’. The ‘exceptional’ Paul Meyer is well ‘respected in the industry’, has a ‘strong grasp of the issues across the sector’, and is ‘a great strategic adviser’. Nicholas Williams dedicates all his time to insurance industry matters and he and his team are ‘talented, highly approachable and commercial in their client dealings’. Four new partners joined from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, including Gary Boss, who also works exclusively in this practice area and has already increased the group’s M&A activity. Other areas of expertise include insolvency work, transactions concerning life insurers and longevity risks. The group represented General Motors Asset Management in the restructuring of the group annuity contracts of the General Motors pension plans. TIAA-CREF is a longstanding client, and more recent client wins are Citigroup and Fidelity National Financial.

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Within Overview,

Within the legal market, the implosion of Dewey LeBoeuf LLP’s renowned insurance practice continues to make its mark with some of its most prominent partners settling at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Patton Boggs LLP, and others at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, Mayer Brown, Clifford Chance, Hogan Lovells LLP, Sidley Austin LLP, and DLA Piper.

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United States: Investment fund formation and management

Within Private equity funds, tier 4

Clifford Chance’s prominent private equity capability extends across its international platform. In an illustration of its global reach, New York-based Jeff Berman represented BC Partners in the formation of a €6.5bn European buyout fund, which involved regulatory and structuring advice regarding the fund’s ability to make a long-term fund investment in light of the new Dodd-Frank restrictions. It also represented Peakside Capital on its proposed €350m European real estate fund, which was the first fund formed since the client’s spinout from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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Within Real estate investment trusts (REITs), Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Clifford Chance is a dominant player in the REIT capital markets space, where 13 partners and a further 50 fee-earners act as issuer’s counsel to over 40 investment trusts, as well as handling underwriter-side representations for institutional lenders such as Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. In a reflection of the continued strength of the REIT market for new issuers, New York-based Larry Medvinsky, Jason Myers and Richard Catalano represented Empire State Realty, which owns the Empire State Building, on its recent application with the SEC to become a publicly traded REIT. The practice also benefits from a strong cross-border capability, and in 2012 Lewis Cohen and Jake Farquharson represented Fibra Hotel, the owner and operator of hotels throughout Mexico, in its formation of a Mexican REIT and proposed $320m 144A/Reg S. offering. This transaction represents the practice’s second Mexican REIT IPO. The practice has also been highly active in REIT-related M&A matters, with Kathleen Werner advising on the merger between WP Carey & Co and its publicly held, non-traded REIT affiliate Corporate Property Associates 15 Inc, and the concurrent conversion of WP Carey Inc to REIT status. The combination of the two entities will create one of the largest REITs in the US market, with a total market capitalization of $5bn and a portfolio of over 39m square feet of corporate real estate worldwide. On the underwriter side, capital markets head Jay Bernstein and Andrew Epstein represented Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, Citigroup and Jefferies in Western Asset Management Company’s $300m IPO, which was notable for having a simultaneous public and private offering. Andrew Epstein is also recommended.

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United States: Labor and employment

Within Employee benefits and executive compensation, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

Clifford Chance advises on employee benefits, executive compensation services and provides ERISA fiduciary advice. It has a growing reputation for its representation of post acquisition management teams and has the benefit of being able to tap into the firm’s employee benefits and executive compensation teams around the world. The firm advised Citibank on the sale of EMI’s music publishing and recorded music businesses, including the restructuring of approximately $5.5bn in loans incurred by Citibank in connection with its acquisition of EMI; and is representing Empire State Realty Trust on its recent filing with the SEC toward becoming a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Jeffrey Lieberman, counsel and ‘very responsive’ Robert Stone and the ‘pragmatic and commercial’ Howard Adler, who joined the firm in 2012 having previously co-chaired Dewey & LeBoeuf’s EBEC group, are all recommended.

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United States: Litigation

Within White-collar criminal defense , tier 8

Clifford Chance recently welcomed David Raskin, Christopher Morvillo and Edward O’Callaghan; all three are former federal prosecutors, although Morvillo’s most recent role was at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello P.C. and O’Callaghan’s at Nixon Peabody LLP. The team successfully defended an individual from GSC Group who led a collateral management team accused of allowing a hedge fund to choose risky securities for a $1.1bn CDO; the case, which was brought by the SEC, was subsequently dropped. Ongoing matters include defending Autonomy founder Michael Lynch against allegations of financial impropriety and misrepresentation made by Hewlett Packard - which acquired Lynch’s software company for $11bn - and advising a leading international private banking, wealth management, and custody bank on regulatory compliance and tax matters. Washington DC office managing partner David DiBari heads the group.

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United States: Mergers, acquisitions and buyouts

Within M&A: large deals ($1bn-5bn), tier 4

Clifford Chance’s Brian Hoffmann and John Healy co-head the corporate practice. Hoffmann is ‘an especially talented and experienced M&A attorney, with exceptionally good business judgment’. The team advised TAM on its combination with LAN Airlines, to form LATAM Airlines Group, the completed transaction resulting in the largest airline in South America, with a fleet of 310 aircraft, and one of the largest airlines in the world by market value; acted for Hearst in its $1bn acquisition of Elle, Elle Decor, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, as well as other magazines published throughout the world, which was a complex, cross-border matter that involved lawyers in 15 countries and several antitrust filings in the US, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Ukraine; and advised Corporate Property Associates 15 on its pending $5bn merger with W P Carey & Co, and W P Carey’s concurrent conversion to a REIT, the combined company becoming one of the largest REITs in the US market. David Brinton, Sarah Jones, Benjamin Sibbett and Kathleen Werner are key contacts.

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United States: Real estate and construction

Within Real estate, tier 5

With a broad-based practice and strong international capabilities, Clifford Chance delivers ‘consistently excellent service at all levels’. Douglas Wisner in New York heads a team of 18 partners and 40 assistants, and is praised for his ‘high competency and deep understanding of his subject’. The ‘excellent’ Ness Cohen is noted for his commercial acumen, and Victoria Manthas is also recommended. Wisner advised Invesco Real Estate Management on the acquisition by certain fund affiliates of a 220,000 rentable sq ft office building in Boston, along with underlying ground leasing. Cohen advised Almanac Realty Advisors on structured investments of $150m in Westcore Properties and Drawbridge Reality Trust, and YES! Investors concerning a $312m refinancing of a 67-property multi-state portfolio of manufactured housing communities. The team has also recently acted for Madison International Realty and CIBC.

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United States: Tax

Within Domestic tax: East Coast, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

Clifford Chance’s New York-based tax team has a solid practice working both domestically and internationally. The team handles the tax aspects of capital markets and M&A matters as well as demonstrating considerable experience in investment and fund management, with a strong REIT practice. Richard Catalano advised the Empire State Realty Trust, owner of the Empire State Building, on its recent filing with the SEC toward becoming a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Other work highlights included the firm’s advice to Citigroup on the restructuring of €5.5bn in loans made in connection with the leveraged buyout of EMI, including Citi’s acquisition of 100% of shares of EMI as part of the debt restructuring. The key partners in the deal were Philip Wagman, David Moldenhauer and Avrohom Gelber

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Within Financial products, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Headed by Richard Catalano, Clifford Chance’s tax group is distinguished by its strong presence and depth in a broad range of practice areas, such as CLOs, derivatives, commercial real estate, distressed investing, and by its market leadership in the insurance area. The growing team in New York has a very deep practice in the commercial loan/CLO space, representing a variety of clients including Credit Suisse Asset Management, New York Life Investment Management, Allianz and TCW. The group has also attracted an increasing stream of work related to asset classes that were active at pre-credit crisis, and are now resurgent. The highly recommended Donald Carden recently acted for, in the commercial real estate space, a complex real estate mortgages investment conduits (REMIC) securitization transaction for North Star Realty Finance. Avrohom Gelber, along with Philip Wagman, recently completed highly complex restructuring work for Citigroup, involving over 600 subsidiaries in 47 countries. Wagman has been recently appointed as member of the executive committee of the tax section of the New York State Bar Association.

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Within International tax, Clifford Chance is a second tier firm,

With seven partners based in New York, Clifford Chance’s international practice benefits from the firm’s global network, with offices in a number of key jurisdictions. Firm clients include major foreign and domestic companies, which the team advises on capital markets, M&A and tax aspects of investment fund management. Richard Catalano is a key lawyer in international matters and represented Safra (a Brazil-headquartered international conglomerate) on its acquisition of numerous properties in New York. The firm also advised Ajegroup in its first transaction on the international capital markets. The matter was a complex and notable bond placement, involving more than a dozen local counsel in jurisdictions throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. Philip Wagman is also recommended and has recently been selected to become a member of the executive committee of the tax section of the New York State Bar Association.

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Latin America: International firms

Within Projects and energy, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

The Latin America projects and energy team at Clifford Chancedoes a great job identifying the key issues in complex transactions and consistently provides excellent advice and thorough representation’. It ‘is our go-to firm for all major transactional work in Latin America and elsewhere. The lawyers we work with are very knowledgeable and creative. More so than other firms, it is extremely responsive and commercial and it represents good value’. With its international reach, its clients benefit from the firm’s global projects and energy knowledge. It recently assisted Goldman Sachs, as arranger, in respect of a $110m project bond to finance the expansion of the port of Paita in Peru, which is being developed by a consortium comprised by Tertir and Andino; and represented AEI in respect of the development and financing of the 530MW, $700m Fenix combined-cycle power project in Peru, which was financed by a group of commercial banks (including BTG Pactual) and export credit agencies. In another highlight matter, the firm acted for Citi, Natixis, BBVA, BTMU and other commercial banks in an $800m COFACE, CESCE and MIGA backed financing for the Republic of Panama to fund the Panama City metro. The firm also has a thriving agency practice. It advised IDB, EKF, HSBC, Crédit Agricole, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Santander and Banorte on the $693m financing of a 396MW Mareña Renovables wind farm in the state of Oaxaca, which is being developed by Macquarie; and is currently advising IDB, IFC, a syndicate of Costa Rican banks and BNP Paribas, as arranger of the "B bond", in connection with the $1bn, 306MW Reventazon hydroelectric project in Costa Rica, which is sponsored by ICE, the state-owned utility. It is also currently advising IDB and a group of commercial banks in respect of the financing of the $1bn Chaglla hydroelectric project in Peru, which is being developed by Odebrecht; and acting for Centrales Hidrolectricas de Nicaragua, a joint venture formed by Eletrobras and Queiroz Galvao, in the development and financing of a 220MW Tumarin hydroelectric project in Nicaragua. David Evans and Christopher McIsaac co-head the firm’s Americas energy and infrastructure group. The team includes the considerable talents of Lori Ann Bean, Fabricio Longhin, Catherine McCarthy, Chris Willott and Evan Cohen. David Brinton ‘has proven time and again that he can weave through complex multinational transactions and provide high-quality advice’.

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Further information on Clifford Chance

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United States

Offices in Washington DC, New York, and Menlo Park

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