Herbert Smith poaches Goldman's Moore

The UK law firm grabs Goldman Sachs'' senior in house counsel to boost its US securities law franchise.

Herbert Smith has stolen a march on its rivals by securing the services of John Moore, the senior in house counsel for Goldman Sach's Asian investment banking division. Moore will be a partner in the UK firm's global US securities practice of its corporate division. At Herbert Smith, Moore will work with Kevin Roy in Hong Kong and Jim Wickenden, the London based head of the US securities practice.

Moore, who hails from West Virginia, has spent the last six years at Goldman, having joined the firm from leading US firm Sullivan & Cromwell, where he had been a partner in the Hong Kong and New York offices. At Goldman he focused on US SEC registered and 144A deals.

Many UK firms have struggled to build up credible US securities practices in Asia in recent years. While issuers seem happy enough to appoint them to their deals, intermediaries still seem reluctant. This is mainly because US investment banks are very scared about getting so called 10b5 letters from non-US firms.

These letters are from the law firms to the investment banks saying that they have found no material misstatements or omissions in the due diligence the banks have undertaken on US deals. These letters provide the banks with some comfort in the case of lawsuits, if a deal goes wrong. Many US banks feel that the strength of a 10b5 is diminished if it does not come from a US law firm. The UK firms would clearly beg to differ.

For Herbert Smith, having someone of the stature of Moore providing these opinions should allow them to ameliorate some of the concerns of the investment banks.

"One of the key planks of the firm's recent progress has been our success in developing broad relationships with many of the world's major investment banks," says Wickenden in London. "The recruitment of John provides a further opportunity to strengthen these links, and also to build on the great work Kevin and the rest of the US securities team in Hong Kong have been doing. In the current market there are very few opportunities to recruit US lawyers in Asia of the calibre of John. We are fortunate. He will be a great asset to the firm."

According to sources in the market, Herbert Smith is an attractive place to work right now. Its profits per partner are said to have "exploded" in recent years on the back of its litigation practice, which is widely seen as one of the best in the business. It is unclear if this as a determining factor in Moore's decision to join the firm.