Your commercial news round-up: A&O Shearman, Uber lawsuit, Premier League spending cap, AI and biotech

updated on 02 May 2024

Reading time: four minutes

Local elections are underway in England and Wales – don’t forget your ID when you head to your polling station to vote. The polls will close at 10:00pm this evening and the first results are expected to arrive after midnight on Friday 3 May. Aside from local elections, this week’s round-up looks at the hottest news in the legal press as the merger between two elite firms goes live, Uber’s latest lawsuit, plans for new spending cap rules for the Premier League and AI in biotech research.

  • The mega merger is here! Yesterday, Wednesday 1 May, saw the merger between magic circle law firm Allen & Overy LLP and US firm Shearman & Sterling go live. The combined firm, with 48 offices in 29 countries and 4,000 lawyers across the world, will now be known as A&O Shearman. It’ll have an annual revenue of around £2.9 billion and newly qualified associates at the firm will receive a starting salary of £125,000, in line with the salary previously offered at Allen & Overy (newly qualified associates at Shearman & Sterling previously received a salary of £145,000). While the location for A&O Shearman’s headquarters is currently One Bishops’ Square in London, there are plans to downsize by 2027 to 2 Broadgate, close to Liverpool Street. Considering the merger’s impact on the rest of the magic circle, Scott Gibson, a director at a London legal recruitment firm, said: “As long as US private equity continues to drive the market, the rest of the UK global elite will keep trying to break the US. They have no choice if they want to stay elite.”
  • Uber is facing a multi-million-pound lawsuit due to claims from London’s black cab drivers that it misled Transport for London to obtain its licence to operate in the City, taking business away from other drivers. The claim was initially brought to light in 2018 but was then abandoned during the pandemic. According to BBC News, the group action will be filed in the High Court on behalf of the claimants on Thursday, with the claim’s value estimated at around £250 million. There are more than 10,000 black cab drivers who are potentially eligible for compensation and “thousands of cabbies” still eligible to join who’ve not yet done so. While an Uber spokesperson describes the claims as “completely unfounded”, Richard Leedham, partner and head of commercial disputes at Mischon de Reya LLP, argued that the ride-hailing company has “consistently failed to comply with the law that applies to private hire vehicles in London”.
  • Plans for a new spending cap to replace the Premier League’s existing profit and sustainability rules (formerly financial fair play) for the 2025/26 season were discussed in a meeting in London earlier this week. The majority of Premier League teams voted in favour of the proposals, with Manchester United and Manchester City among those that voted against. With details of the proposed new spending cap yet to be finalised, Sky Sports News explained that the teams not participating in European competitions would be able to spend 85% of the club revenue on squad costs (eg, player wages and transfer fees), while those in European competitions would only be able to spend 70%. This is in line with the squad cost-to-revenue ratio outlined in the UEFA’s Financial Sustainability Regulations. Concerns have been raised about these proposals with ‘anchoring’ rules (ie, clubs only eligible to spend a maximum of the multiple of what the bottom club earns in revenue) also being thrown into the mix. A final vote is due to take place next month at the Premier League annual general meeting.
  • Full Circle Biotechnology, a firm based in Thailand that produces insect-based feed for the country’s shrimp and pig farms, is looking at the use of AI to maximise production at a lower cost. According to BBC News, the firm is training an AI system to enable it to study data on insect farming with the aim that it’ll “speed up the process of trial and error” help “overcome obstacles, and develop a thorough enough understanding of insect production” so the firm can be “reasonably confident” that its production is optimised. Felix Collins, founder and boss of the firm, said: "AI can help us process, record and understand every attempt at insect farming to date, and expand the potential for a larger and more nutritious crop every time we grow one."

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