Honigman is first in bank work


by Cynthia Price

The Michigan law firm which ranks number one in the nation for number of deals forged as an advisor to banks runs its Financial Institutions Practice Group under the supervision of its Kalamazoo managing partner, Phillip D. Torrence.

That firm, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, has offices throughout Michigan and represents banks across the whole country, from California to New York, from New Mexico to Ohio to North Carolina.
But Torrence, the chair of the Financial Institutions Practice Group, works out of the Kalamazoo office.

“This is something we’re quite proud of,” Torrence commented. “We’re ranked above some of the nation’s top law firms.”

The ranking was published in SNL Financial, and is based on the number of merger and acquisition transactions closed during the year. According to Torrence, the firm closed 14; the nearest competitor, prominent Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Hunton & Williams LLP, closed eight.

How did this come about? Torrence says that Honigman’s practice group has mounted an aggressive campaign to expand its geographic reach, resulting in a number of early successes. “As the year went on and we continued to rank as number one, many banks throughout the country saw those rankings and contacted us.”

Honigman’s competitive rates by comparison to some of the other well-known firms such as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates put the firm in a good position to continue their expansion and success rate.

Honigman’s Mergers & Acquisitions practice was also recognized by U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers as one of the top-rated practices nationally, the only Michigan law firm to appear in the top rankings.

One of the Michigan banks benefiting from Honigman’s assistance was Capital Bancorp. According to its General Counsel, Brian English, “Honigman has provided Capitol Bancorp with outstanding representation in divesting some of our banking subsidiaries’ assets and recapitalizing others for the purpose of reallocating capital to enhance the regulatory capital of our retained banking subsidiaries. The banking industry has had many serious challenges and the Honigman team has helped us successfully navigate those waters... The value we received for the price we paid was amazing. Whenever we have had complex legal issues, particularly those involving our holding company or regulatory issues involving our banks, we rely on Honigman.”

More than 150 small banks closed  in 2010. These have traditionally benefited from real estate development and small business loans, but with the economic downturn those sources of cash decreased. Consumer and small business loans started to increase in 2010,  and banks are expected to benefit from the Small Business Jobs Act under which the U.S. Treasury Dept. can increase the capital levels of community banks to facilitate small-business lending.

As Torrence explained it, “Maintaining sufficient regulatory capital ratios has challenged financial institutions of all sizes, [and] resulted in financial institutions recapitalizing, merging operations or selling assets at a greater pace... We have been pleased to guide clients through this process, particularly since it has helped many banks stay in business.”

Torrence also works with life science and medical companies, which takes about half his time.

“We had a very busy year in 2010, and 2011 is starting out to be every bit as busy,” Torrence said.