Fat-cat advisers just keep rolling along

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The Independent Online
Fat cats come and fat cats go, but their City advisers just keep rolling along. We do not know precisely how much Union Bank of Switzerland will pocket in fees for the innovative scheme it dreamt up to finance the Porterbrook takeover. Nor is it yet apparent how much the lawyers, accountants and PR men will take home for helping assemble the torrent of bumpf that will be landing on the doormats of Stagecoach shareholders this weekend.

But it has been a week of rich pickings for those poor hard-pressed folk elsewhere. David Potter, chairman of Psion, assures us that the pounds 1.5m he coughed up in fees, only to be told that Amstrad was a pig in a poke, was "modest". Just think how much it would have cost in advice if it had actually proceeded with a full offer, he says.

Never mind. Charterhouse, which advised Psion along with BZW, has already done nicely, thank you, out of its other client of the week, Porterbrook Leasing. Likewise, Slaughter and May and Paisner, which provided Mr Potter with legal advice, and Arthur Andersen, which counted the beans, will surely not be without more fee work for long.

BA and USAir fell out and reached for their lawyers. Price Waterhouse continues to ratchet up the loot as administrators to part of the Maxwell empire. This week the meter hit $71m (pounds 46m) for its work winding up MCC in the United States.

The gas industry is also proving a goldmine. This week Lasmo warned that it is considering suing British Gas in the gas levy dispute which is shuttling around Whitehall. Since British Gas is already suing the Government, which in turn is suing Lasmo, it does not take the brains of a rocket scientist to establish who is going to come off best, irrespective of which side wins.

Of course, being a professional adviser is not invariably a one-way street to riches, as the mountain of writs issued in the direction of Barings' auditors Coopers and Lybrand and Deloitte Touche demonstrates.

In order to cap their exposure, auditors and now law firms are abandoning their partnership structure and buying brass plates in Jersey.

Perhaps they should go one step further than limited company status and become fully-fledged quoted stocks paying dividends. That way at least their clients could receive some of the loot back.

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