Sullivan & Cromwell Makes First U.S. Lateral Partner Hire in Years

Feb. 27, 2017, 10:43 PM

What does it say about the global regulatory environment that Sullivan & Cromwell’s first lateral partner hire in the U.S. in years is the Justice Department’s former top antitrust lawyer?

The Wall Street law firm announced on Monday that it hired Renata Hesse, who in January departed the U.S. Department of Justice after serving as the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division. Previously, Hesse was a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

In an interview with Big Law Business, Hesse and Frank Aquila, a Sullivan & Cromwell partner who handles mergers and acquisitions, explained that there are more global transactions happening than ever, and as more countries step up their merger review process, it has accentuated the need for antitrust expertise.

“There are very few things that can actually keep a deal from getting done and antitrust is one of them,” said Hesse.

Under her tenure, the DOJ opposed — and in January, a federal judge agreed and blocked — the proposed $37 billion merger of health insurers Aetna and Humana.

Aquila said that a number of lawyers at the firm had worked with Hesse who sat across the table when she was at the Justice Department; and so after leaving her post in January, Hesse said Sullivan & Cromwell reached out to her about joining the firm.

Based in Washington, D.C., she said she plans to represent the firm’s clients around the world on merger review, on cartel enforcement and white collar issues and the full range of antitrust issues. Hesse said she developed relationships with antitrust authorities around the world while in her position at the DOJ, and expects that she’ll be able to represent clients in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia and elsewhere.

About the lateral hire, Aquila called it “extraordinarily rare.” He noted that in 2010, the firm hired Nader Mousavi, who heads up its intellectual property group; and in 2011, it hired Michael Torkin, who focuses on bankruptcy and restructuring but otherwise the firm generally only promotes U.S. lawyers from within its own ranks.

Above the Law wrote about how Sullivan & Cromwell is one of a declining number of law firms that still try to keep a lockstep, or near lockstep partnership advancement model. But it has recently been promoting and hiring more lawyers as special counsel, an intermediary position between associate and partner, according to the article .

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