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Global Asset Manager AllianceBernstein Unveils Legal Transition

May 7, 2021, 11:07 AM

AllianceBernstein Holding LP, an asset management firm controlled by Equitable Holdings Inc., itself a unit of French insurance giant AXA SA, will see its top lawyer Laurence Cranch step down at year’s end.

Cranch, who has spent nearly five decades practicing law, is poised to retire Dec. 31, according to a May 4 securities filing. Cranch serves as AllianceBernstein’s chief legal officer, having initially been hired as the company’s general counsel in 2004.

AllianceBernstein gave Cranch a total compensation package valued at more than $2 million in 2020, according to its annual report filed in February. Cranch’s remuneration last year was comprised of a $400,000 base salary, $660,000 in stock awards, and a $940,000 bonus, the company said.

The securities filing this week, signed by AllianceBerstein’s corporate secretary David Lesser, included an attached agreement delineating the terms of Cranch’s retirement. The asset manager’s outgoing legal chief will receive his $400,000 base salary for 26 weeks after he leaves AllianceBernstein.

Cranch will also see vest stock units he received in return for relocating from New York to Nashville, where AllianceBernstein announced in 2018 it would move its corporate headquarters and thousands of financial services jobs.

AllianceBernstein spokeswoman Carly Rolfe told Bloomberg Law that general counsel and global head of compliance Mark Manley will take over its top legal duties.

Manley will become a member of AllianceBernstein’s operating committee and “assume Larry’s role of running the legal and compliance department, overseeing all legal affairs for the firm,” Rolfe said.

Manley has spent more than three decades working in a variety of legal roles at AllianceBernstein. In February, the company’s New York-based parent, Equitable Holdings, announced its hire of Jose Gonzalez as its new legal chief.

Cranch, in an email to Bloomberg Law, acknowledged Manley’s ascension to AllianceBernstein’s top in-house legal role. He also confirmed several other recent legal hires, including former Big Law associates Jimmie Covington and Sarah Zimmer, both of whom joined the company as counsel since late last year.

Leon Hirth, a former Shearman & Sterling counsel and one-time general counsel and compliance chief for hedge fund sponsor Stelliam Investment Management LP, was recruited by AllianceBernstein last year as head of legal alternatives, Cranch said.

AllianceBernstein also brought on a new chief privacy officer this year in Gerald Spada, who most recently served as an associate general counsel and privacy chief at broker-dealer LPL Financial Holdings Inc. Cranch said Spada will work within AllianceBerstein’s infrastructure risk management group, not its legal department.

Cranch, in addition to confirming those additions and his pending retirement, said he has no plans to return to private practice.

Prior to joining AllianceBernstein in 2004, Cranch was a partner at Clifford Chance, which he joined four years earlier after orchestrating one of the most important law firm mergers in legal history.

Cranch was managing partner of New York-based Rogers & Wells when it agreed to combine operations in 1999 with London-based Clifford Chance. Cranch, who had worked at Rogers & Wells since 1973, presided over the first major cross-border legal services union. The transatlantic tie-up underscored the challenges in bringing together cultures—and compensation practices—from U.S. and U.K. firms.

Cranch currently owns more than $18.7 million in AllianceBernstein stock, according to Bloomberg Law data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com