BLP corporate crime and investigations head leaves as firm nears decision on US merger

King & Spalding has recruited Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) corporate crime and investigations head Aaron Stephens, in the latest departure from the UK firm ahead of its proposed transatlantic merger with Bryan Cave.

Stephens, who will join King & Spalding’s special matters and government investigations team, has been at BLP for 10 years after joining from DLA Piper in 2008, making partner in 2011.

He has a focus on internal investigations, financial crime and regulation matters, bribery and corruption, money laundering, financial sanctions, market abuse and fraud.

News of his departure comes a week after BLP confirmed that partners would begin voting on the proposed merger with US firm Bryan Cave, with a decision expected to be reached in the week beginning 26 February.

He is the third London partner to leave the firm since last October’s announcement of the merger talks, with Weil Gotshal & Manges recruiting real estate partner Anthea Bamford and hotels group head Karen Friebe joining Bird & Bird.

Other departures last year included capital markets duo Julian Stanier and Gareth Jones, who left for Pinsent Masons, while a nine-strong intellectual property team moved to Bristows as BLP pulled out of trademark licensing and disputes work.

Drew Hruska, head of King & Spalding’s government investigations area of focus, commented: “Aaron is a highly skilled and highly accomplished white-collar expert, who provides incisive and effective advice for clients facing complex investigations. Our clients are increasingly requiring sophisticated advice in relation to international investigations and Aaron further strengthens our ability to service those clients in London.”

BLP global head of litigation and corporate risk Nathan Willmott said: “Aaron is a good friend to many of us and we will miss having him as a colleague here at BLP. He has left our corporate crime practice in a really strong position, and under Andrew Tuson’s leadership we have some very exciting plans for the future.”

Tom Sprange QC – who recently took over as managing partner of King & Spalding’s City base from corporate and projects partner Garry Pegg – has set out his intentions to boost the firm’s London capabilities in practices including white-collar crime, corporate and energy.

Sprange added: “The ability to offer our clients quality white-collar expertise in London – which we intend to keep growing – not only reinforces our investigations practice but the office as a whole.”