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Corporate Scorecard 2009: Annus Horribilis

Horror For anyone who lived through 2008, no Latin training is required to understand the import of the phrase annus horribilis. That is the phrase used by the editors of The American Lawyer to describe the state of corporate law practice in the magazine's Corporate Scorecard 2009, its annual survey of the legal industry's top corporate practices.

Call it what you like -- historic, unprecedented, apocalyptic -- 2008 was a year that few Am Law 100 lawyers will forget. As former M&A masters of the universe, structured finance seers, and debt wheeler-dealers told us, 2008 started off fine. But Black Monday, September 15, the day Lehman Brothers died, was the beginning of the end. M&A came to a standstill. Corporate debt offerings dried up. Securitizations, already under pressure, stopped. It was an annus horribilis -- and our Corporate Scorecard write-ups show how every sector of dealmaking and capital markets practices was affected.

A series of charts show the top corporate practices for 2008 in various areas including mergers and acquisitions, private equity, project finance, equities and IPOs and others.These numbers deserve more careful study and thought than I can give them here, but they certainly appear to support the description of 2008 as annus horribilis.

Take just the example of firms that served as counsel to principals in M&As. For 2007, the scorecard gave top ranking in this category to Sullivan & Cromwell. That year, it handled 61 deals with a total dollar value of $369 billion. For 2008, it fell to third place with deals valued at $214 billion. The top spot for 2008 went to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which had been ranked third the year before. But even as it rose in rank, the value of its deals likewise went down, from $316 billion in 2007 to $309 billion in 2008.

This issue of The American Lawyer also profiles the top 25 dealmakers of 2008. The ranking is based "on the import of the deals themselves, the role of the lawyering, and the degree of difficulty involved." By that standard, the editors' choice for top dealmaker was H. Rodgin Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell. "He was in the room when Bear Stearns was sold, when Fannie Mae was nationalized, and when Lehman Brothers died," writer Ben Hallman explains. "He helped American International Group secure an $85 billion bailout and told Wachovia's board of directors that they should spurn Citigroup's buyout offer in favor of one from Wells Fargo." By that description, it was quite a year for Cohen. Perhaps even an annus horribilis.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 31, 2009 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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