Paul Hastings snaps up O’Melveny fintech chair

Signage is seen outside of the Paul Hastings law firm in Washington, D.C.
The Paul Hastings law firm in Washington, D.C., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Eric Sibbitt latest fintech practice leader to swap law firms
  • Fintech increasingly an "engine of activity" for firms

(Reuters) - Paul Hastings has hired Eric Sibbitt, a financial technology and capital markets lawyer who was most recently chair of O’Melveny & Myers’ fintech practice.

Sibbitt, who advises issuers and underwriters on initial public offerings and other equity and debt capital-raising transactions, joins Paul Hastings as a partner in San Francisco, the firm said Tuesday.

He also advises clients on Securities and Exchange Commission and corporate governance matters, the firm said.

Sibbitt, who works with blockchain and cryptocurrency clients, is the latest fintech leader to hop firms this year. Several firms made big hires in January, including Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough's hire of Polsinelli fintech leader Richard Levin, White & Case's addition of Milbank practice group head Douglas Landy, and Cooley's hire of Morrison & Foerster fintech co-chairs Obrea Poindexter and Sean Ruff.

Los Angeles-based Paul Hastings made a similar hire to expand its capital markets and fintech and payments practice groups last year when it brought on New York-partner Christopher Austin, who previously served as co-head of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe's capital markets practice.

"As blockchain and cryptocurrency become more and more mainstream, companies in this innovative space are seeking top legal counsel to help them navigate their convergence with more traditional financial institutions and Main Street companies," Seth Zachary, chairman of Paul Hastings, said in a statement Tuesday.

Sibbitt also commented on the trend, citing an "interesting convergence between what was once what I like to call the wild west of crypto, and kind-of traditional mainstream businesses and financial institutions."

Traditional financial institutions are merging with or acquiring blockchain-related and other fintech companies, and traditional crypto-native companies have now become large companies with significant market capitalization, he said.

Sibbitt also noted that fintech work brings opportunities for various practices across large law firms because financial services companies are highly regulated and fintech is a growing industry. Fintech is increasingly "an engine of activity," he said.

An O'Melveny spokesperson said the firm wishes Sibbitt well. O'Melveny has also been active on the lateral hiring front, including hiring two technology-focused corporate partners in California on Monday from Cooley and Fox Rothschild. O'Melveny also became the latest law firm to open an office in Austin last week, with a team from Thompson & Knight.

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at