Shearman & Sterling capital markets partner Lona Nallengara. HANDOUT.
Lona Nallengara ()

After making cutbacks to its equity partnership last year, Shearman & Sterling has recruited two corporate equity partners to its ranks in New York.

Shearman & Sterling announced Monday its addition of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy corporate partner Brien Wassner. The move came on the heels of Lona Nallengara, a former Shearman & Sterling partner who left in 2011 for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, re-joining the firm last week as partner in its capital markets and corporate governance practice.

“In some ways it feels like I never left,” Nallengara said Tuesday.

Nallengara initially joined Shearman & Sterling in 1998 as an associate, having previously worked in the Toronto office of leading Canadian firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. He made partner at Shearman & Sterling and co-chaired the firm’s associate development committee. In 2011, Nallengara became deputy director of the SEC’s corporate finance division before eventually becoming its acting director.

In early 2013, Nallengara was named chief of staff to former SEC chair Mary Jo White, who earlier this year returned to private practice at Debevoise & Plimpton. As White’s top advisor, Nallengara led the rulemaking and implementation efforts for the Dodd-Frank Act and Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, as well as directing the agency’s asset management, market structure and private offering reform programs.

Nallengara said that he hopes to use the experience that he’s gained through his financial regulatory work at the SEC to benefit Shearman & Sterling’s myriad clients, whether they be financial institutions, companies or investment banks.

Following his exit from the SEC in 2015, Nallengara joined the world’s largest hedge fund, Westport, Connecticut-based Bridgewater Associates LP, which once employed current FBI director James Comey Jr.  as its general counsel.

Nallengara served as chief governance officer and senior advisor to Bridgewater’s founder, Ray Dalio, who last month announced he would step down from his role as the fund’s co-CEO. The timing of Nallengara’s transition back into Big Law coincides with the leadership reorganization at Bridgewater. Nallengara declined to discuss the matter.

Shearman & Sterling also announced this week the addition of Brien Wassner, who focuses his practice on advising private equity firms, hedge funds and institutional investors on a variety of different transactions.

“I’m really looking [forward] to working with the platform that Shearman has,” Wassner said. “I think it’s a great global firm with real roots across the globe [and] they have tremendous depth in M&A.”

Wassner began his Big Law career as an associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf, fleeing the now-defunct firm ahead of its bankruptcy in May 2012. He joined dozens of other former Dewey & LeBoeuf lawyers at Winston & Strawn, leaving the latter a year later for Jones Day’s New York office. In August 2015, Wassner headed to Milbank as a partner in the firm’s global corporate group.

“You’re just looking for what’s the right place for you and your client base—that’s what I’ve been focusing on,” Wassner said of his four lateral moves in five years. “I spent a long time evaluating the market and I thought Shearman was the right place to continue and finish my career.”

Wassner declined to discuss whether he used a legal recruiter in making the move to Shearman & Sterling. Nallengara, having previously worked at the firm, did not use one. Last month Shearman & Sterling brought on Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft special counsel Gillian Moldowan as counsel for its governance, executive compensation and ERISA practice in New York. In Abu Dhabi, Shearman & Sterling hired M&A partner Rodney Cannon from his role as group general counsel at Mubadala Development Co.

But Shearman & Sterling has also seen some notable departures. Richard Price, a senior partner in London and co-head of the firm’s global metals and minerals practice, is poised to leave on May 1 to become group general counsel of global mining giant Anglo American plc. Shearman & Sterling capital markets partner Ian Harvey-Samuel left the London office earlier this year to start Legal Innovation Ltd. Andrews Kurth Kenyon also recently added Shearman & Sterling M&A partner James Comyn for its business transactions group in London.

In New York, Winston & Strawn raided Shearman & Sterling for Lawrence Hill, a former chair of the firm’s tax controversy and litigation group.  (Like Wassner, Hill once worked at Dewey & LeBoeuf.) Winston & Strawn returned to Shearman & Sterling for tax counsel Richard Nessler in New York and antitrust partner Heather Kafele in Washington, D.C. Cooley picked up Shearman & Sterling debt finance partner Patrick Flanagan in New York, where Baker McKenzie brought on Shearman & Sterling’s former North America diversity director in January.

Late last year Shearman & Sterling made headlines by breaking ranks with its Wall Street brethren and de-equitizing some partners. The firm, which noted that some of the de-equitizations were tied to partner retirements, saw its partner profits spike 18 percent in 2016, to $2.165 million.

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