European Commission in Brussels
European Commission in Brussels (Jan Kranendonk/iStockphoto.com)

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is in discussions to hire three partners from Shearman & Sterling’s five-partner Brussels office, The American Lawyer has confirmed.

The trio comprises Brussels head and competition co-head Stephen Mavroghenis, as well as fellow partners Miguel Rato and Trevor Soames.

All three originally joined Shearman in 2011 from Howrey amid that firm’s collapse.

The moves would leave Shearman with two competition partners in Brussels: Matthew Readings, who splits his time between London and Brussels, and Geert Goeteyn. Shearman also has three associates and two counsel in the office.

Soames, who one insider said is most likely to leave of the three, was previously Howrey’s global antitrust co-chair; he specializes in contentious cases related to the misuse of market dominance, known as Article 102 complaints. Among his most valuable clients is chip maker Qualcomm Inc., which has been facing a five-year antitrust investigation. In December, Qualcomm was hit with charges that it violated EU antitrust laws by paying a major customer to exclusively use its chips and by selling chips below cost to undercut a competitor.

Mavroghenis has a broad range of clients, including large corporations that he has advised on mergers and joint venture transactions before the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition. He has also defended companies facing cartel and other antitrust investigations, including most recently Viacom, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank.

Rato, a younger partner, has worked with Soames on the Qualcomm matters as well as a more recent E.C. investigation into Samsung’s conduct related to standard-essential patents.

Sources said that the move is far from a done deal and that the group has been talking to other firms as well. Unlike Shearman, Quinn Emanuel has been increasingly representing plaintiffs, rather than defendants, in private antitrust litigation in Europe.

One person with knowledge of the talks said Quinn Emanuel is offering pay higher than Shearman’s top band of compensation, which is around $3 million, according to reporting by The American Lawyer. (Quinn Emanuel posted average profits per partner of $4.42 million last year, according to Am Law 100 rankings; at Shearman, profits dipped last year by 3.7 percent to $1.835 million.)

Shearman has seen its Brussels partners defect to rival firms before. In 2009, its only two Brussels-based partners at the time—local office head Annette Schild and fellow partner Silvio Cappellari—joined Arnold & Porter. More recently, in 2013, former office managing partner Hans Juergen Meyer-Lindemann departed for Dechert.

Quinn first opened an office in Brussels in February 2014. It currently has two partners based there: European competition head Nadine Herrmann, who is managing partner of the office and divides her time between Hamburg and Brussels, and competition partner Boris Bronfentrinker, who joined from claimant firm Hausfeld & Co in October 2014. Herrmann joined Quinn in 2012 from A&O, where she was a partner.

In Europe, Quinn also has offices in Paris; Mannheim and Munich, Germany; Zurich; and Moscow as well as London.

The latest potential hires come after Quinn hired DLA Piper’s London based competition head Kate Vernon in March. Other high-profile U.K. hires for Quinn this year include Herbert Smith Freehills London construction partner James Bremen in June to chair its construction practice and Clyde & Co London litigator Paul Friedman, who joined in February.

Quinn and Shearman declined to comment.