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Antitrust superstar Kevin Arquit insists he didn’t jump from Clifford Chance to New York’s Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for the money. And that, it appears, is true. The 48-year-old Arquit, who was making at least $3 million a year at Clifford Chance, will be taking a pay cut to join Simpson Thacher. At the London-based firm, Arquit was one of the firm’s two highest-paid partners, both of whom were given extra points outside of the firm’s lockstep compensation system, according to several people familiar with Clifford Chance. At Simpson Thacher, which had profits per partner of $1.69 million in 2001, he will be slotted in below the firm’s highest tier, at least for now, according to the firm’s chairman, Richard Beattie. Arquit, who joined Simpson Thacher on Jan. 15, stresses that the firm approached him and that he was not unhappy with Clifford Chance. The worldwide behemoth had taken extraordinary steps to make Arquit happy — for good reason. His book of business is estimated at upward of $30 million. Not only was he given a lush pay deal when Clifford Chance acquired Arquit’s old firm, Rogers & Wells, but he was made deputy chairman of the firm. Still, in early 2002 Arquit had some preliminary discussions with a handful of firms, including Simpson Thacher. At that time Arquit was interested in negotiating for a group that included fellow antitrust star Steven Newborn. Beattie confirms that talks with Arquit go back about a year: “We had discussions in the spring [of 2002], and they were put off. They got going seriously again this fall.” Arquit stresses that, except for those at Simpson Thacher, none of the talks progressed far. “I never entered into a series of negotiations where we had discussions about money,” he says. Newborn also describes those talks as courtesy calls. “To say we were in talks or actively looking is wrong,” says Newborn. “But we were very flattered to hear how many major firms were interested in us.” One person familiar with the Simpson Thacher talks says that the firm made it clear it didn’t want a group. Arquit initially declined to move without the others. Sometime last fall, he changed his mind. (He did bring one younger partner, Aimee Goldstein, to Simpson Thacher.) Newborn says he knew Simpson wouldn’t work out for him because it doesn’t have an office in Washington, D.C., where he’s based. Arquit’s departure leaves Newborn, 56, as the sole Clifford Chance partner with more than the maximum lockstep points. At the time of the Rogers & Wells merger in January 2000, the two firms had to meld radically different compensation schemes: The British firm was staunchly lockstep, while Roger & Wells was more merit-based and subjective. The Rogers & Wells partners were put into the lockstep regime, with a few exceptions. Newborn maintains that the firm must continue to be flexible. “I think the management of the firm is very anxious to make sure the U.S. operations are as successful as possible,” he says, “and the only way to do that is [to] go outside lockstep in limited situations.” Clifford Chance, whose fiscal year begins in May, is in the process of setting partnership points for the upcoming year. John Carroll, the firm’s managing partner for the Americas, appears to agree with Newborn: “No question in my mind — in terms of aligning incentives with clients and promoting collegiality, lockstep is the best system. But there’s also no question in my mind [that] in any business you have to meet the market.” As a result, he says, “my expectation is that there will be people in addition to [Newborn] outside lockstep compensation.” Carroll says Arquit’s departure should not be seen as a sign that the firm is struggling to blend the two cultures. As evidence that the merger is succeeding, he points to the roughly 30 lateral partners who have joined Clifford Chance’s U.S. offices since the merger. Carroll also tries to downplay the effect of Arquit’s departure on his firm. “Honestly I don’t think it will mean that much, but it’s hard to predict the future,” he says. For an American, Carroll has an admirable stiff upper lip.

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