ATLANTA –Accounting giant Ernst & Young is attempting to take a group of tax partners from King & Spalding’s Washington and Atlanta offices. The Big Five accounting firm initially planned to use the partners to form a separate, closely affiliated law firm but because of District of Columbia Bar ethics rules considerations, the exact structure of the union-if it occurs-is unclear. From the beginning, the discussions have been about Ernst & Young taking some of King & Spalding’s partners.

There have not been discussions about a union between the two.”Ernst & Young is having a dialogue with at least some of my Washington partners, if not all,” says King & Spalding’s managing partner, Ralph B.Levy of Atlanta. The Big Five firm also is courting an Atlanta partner,he says. According to the 1999 Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the firm has nine tax partners in its Washington office and six in Atlanta.The two partners involved in the proposed deal from its early stages are Atlanta’s William F. Nelson and Washington’s William S. McKee, Levy says. Both are still with King & Spalding. Washington partner Abraham N.M. “Hap” Shashy Jr. also received an offer from Ernst & Young but Levy says he does not know Shashy’s plans. Nelson did not return phone messages, McKee declined comment and Shashy could not be reached by press time.Nelson is the only Atlanta tax partner currently in discussions with Ernst & Young, says Levy.

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