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May 18, 2018  

Leading CLO Attorney Moving to Milbank

In a move that could affect both firms’ business volumes, collateralized loan obligation attorney Sean Solis is leaving Dechert to join Milbank Tweed.

As a partner reporting to Charlotte-based group head John Timperio, Solis was the highest-ranking member of Dechert’s CLO practice in New York. He leaves today and starts at Milbank on May 21, also in New York.

Sources said some or all of the six associates working under Solis will follow. With a network of issuer clients that ranks among the largest in the business, the expectation is that a heavy volume of assignments could move with him to Milbank as well.

Whether that would lead to a league-table shakeup remains to be seen, especially when it comes to Dechert’s status as the market’s busiest issuer counsel for newly issued CLOs. The firm far outpaced its peers in that category in 2018, appearing on 53 transactions. Milbank tied Cadwalader Wickersham for fifth place, with nine assignments.

On the underwriter-counsel side, Milbank tied Freshfields for fourth place with 11 assignments. Dechert trailed in 10th with credit for three deals, according to Asset-Backed Alert’s ABS Database, which leaves out refinancings and other re-issued transactions.

The notion that Solis’ move might boost Milbank’s standings is supported by the results of past personnel shifts among law firms in the CLO market. Consider that Paul Hastings has risen to become the number-one underwriter counsel and number-seven issuer counsel since hiring a 10-person team from Ashurst in 2015, while Allen & Overy has seen a jump in both types of assignments since recruiting Larry Berkovich from Ashurst in 2017.

Possibly weighing on Dechert’s business is the fact that several other lawyers have left in the last year. Dan Colaizzi moved to Golub Capital, for example, while Michael Shearman jumped to Apollo Management’s risk-retention unit, Redding Ridge Asset Management, and Joe Trunzo switched to Carlyle Group.

With those individuals currently working at issuers, however, the departures actually could help Dechert by solidifying its relationships with their new employers.

“Don’t worry too much about Dechert,” a lawyer at a rival firm said. “They will be fine. They have a great team, and they will continue to get their share of deals.”

As for Solis, another attorney said his move to Milbank is a testament to Dechert’s reputation in the CLO industry. “This isn’t a negative reflection on Dechert. If anything it’s a compliment to the firm . . . [Solis] will get a lot more money. He is a rising star,” he said.

Milbank’s CLO practice is led by Jay Grushkin in New York. Another key member of the team is Deborah Festa in Los Angeles.

Solis joined Dechert from Cadwalader in 2014 as an associate. Along with advising on new CLOs, his work has included the development of risk-retention techniques and fund formation.