Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has hired Sarah Zeng, the former head of Dentons in Beijing.
Mergers and acquisitions lawyer Zeng advises on foreign investments in China and represents Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises, on cross-border transactions— especially in the energy and manufacturing sectors. In 2014, she led the Dentons team that advised state-owned China Minmetals Corp. alongside White & Case on a $5.8 billion acquisition of copper mine assets in Peru.
She joins Orrick as a partner at a time when Chinese investment in North American and European companies is receiving increased government scrutiny. In the U.S., Congress is currently writing legislation that would enhance the powers of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and strengthen export controls on technology as it relates to China. Specifically, the legislation would make it much harder for China to acquire U.S. tech companies and for U.S. tech companies to enter partnerships with Chinese concerns.
Zeng acted as Beijing managing partner for Dentons before the global firm’s landmark combination with China’s Dacheng Law Offices in 2015. She had joined the legacy SNR Denton three years earlier from Weichai Power Co. Ltd., a state-owned Chinese diesel engine maker, where she was general counsel. Prior to that, she managed the China business for several multinationals, including Houston-based energy company El Paso Corp. Earlier in her career, she practiced with the Philadelphia-based firm Pepper Hamilton in Washington, D.C.
Following the Dentons-Dacheng merger, Zeng remained with the firm as a partner. As part of the integration process, legacy Dentons’ offices in Beijing and Shanghai merged into Dacheng, which is what the combined firm is called in China.
In 2016, the entire legacy Dentons’ Shanghai office, led by five partners, jumped ship to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Beijing-based corporate partner Frank Niu, the only other China partner left from the legacy Dentons side, is now counsel, according to his profile page. Niu joined the firm in 2014 as a partner from Baker McKenzie.
This is the second partner hire Orrick has made in Beijing in the past few weeks. Former King & Wood Mallesons partner Jeff Zhang, who splits time between New York and Beijing, was hired last month to focus on outbound deals. Prior to Zhang’s hire, the Beijing office focused primarily on intellectual property work.
Former Beijing corporate partner Ning Zhang left Orrick in early 2017 as part of a nine-partner team that joined Morgan Lewis.