Mohammed Al-Sheikh, the former cochair of the Islamic finance practice at Latham & Watkins and managing partner of the firm’s Riyadh office, is stepping down to become an executive director of the World Bank, a global institution that has served as the home to more than one powerful international lawyer over the years.
Al-Sheikh was previously a partner at White & Case, where he coheaded that firm’s Islamic finance practice and served as the head of its Riyadh office in Saudi Arabia, until he joined an exodus of his colleagues for Latham in early 2010.
The mass lateral move gave Latham another base of operations in the Middle East, a region it first entered in 2008 with a trio of office openings in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Doha. Since foreign firms must set up local alliances in order to operate in Saudi Arabia, Al-Sheikh switched the alliance of his own Riyadh-based local shop, the Law Office of Mohammed Al-Sheikh, from White & Case to Latham, thereby giving the Los Angeles–based Am Law 100 firm a base in the country.
At the World Bank, Al-Sheikh, a Saudi national, will become one of 25 full-time executive directors who represent their home countries before the Washington, D.C.–based body, whose purpose is to provide financial assistance to the world’s developing countries. (Click here for a list of those executive directors and their alternates.)
Since it was formally established on December 27, 1945, the World Bank has been headed by a litany of business executives, political power players, and top lawyers. (Former Baker & McKenzie chair Christine Lagarde currently heads the International Monetary Fund, a sister organization created out of the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944.)
John McCloy, a former U.S. assistant secretary of war during World War II and name partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, served as the World Bank’s second president from 1947 to 1949. He was succeeded over the years by lawyer-turned-banker Alden Clausen, James Wolfensohn (a former attorney at Australian legal giant Allens), and Robert Zoellick, a Harvard Law School graduate and former managing director of Goldman Sachs who stepped down at the end of his five-year term in June. Zoellick was replaced in July by a nonlawyer: South Korean native and former Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim.
Yong Kim takes charge of an organization whose mandate has become bloated and unfocused in recent years, according to a story this summer by Forbes, which noted the World Bank’s 188 member countries and 9,000 employees as being part of a body with little oversight and growing dysfunction.
Zoellick’s predecessor as World Bank president, former U.S. secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, was embroiled in an embarrassing scandal back in 2007 that led the World Bank’s board to hire Williams & Connolly to conduct an investigation into internal documents leaked to Fox News, some of which pointed to Wolfowitz’s relationship with a former employee, according to our previous reports. (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which represented Wolfowitz through former partner Robert Bennett, were also involved.)
Roberto Dañino, another Harvard Law School graduate who once headed the Latin American practice at a predecessor firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, resigned as general counsel of the World Bank in 2006. Dañino subsequently spoke with sibling publication Corporate Counsel about the Wolfowitz affair. (Spanish lawyer Ana Palacio succeeded Dañino as general counsel of the World Bank until French lawyer Anne-Marie Leroy replaced her in December 2008, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal.)
As for Al-Sheikh, yet another Harvard Law School alum, he was recently part of a team of Latham lawyers advising a group of underwriters this summer on a $365 million initial public offering for Saudi Arabia’s Al Tayyar Travel Group. Al-Sheikh also worked with Latham finance partner Christopher Langdon in London and associate Salman Al-Sudairi in Riyadh—both of whom also once worked at White & Case—in representing a group of international banks last year on a $2 billion out-of-court restructuring settlement with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittefaq Steel Products Company, according to our previous reports.
Al-Sudairi, who was promoted to partner earlier this year, will replace Al-Sheikh as head of Latham’s Riyadh office, according to a press release issued by the firm. Al-Sudairi has set up his own local practice that established an association with Latham last week. Al-Sheikh begins his tenure at the World Bank on September 24.