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KPMG France Just Poached 130 Lawyers From a French Law Firm, Which Is Understandably Pissed

In Going Concern’s nine-plus-year history, Caleb and Adrienne have chronicled many, many instances of “competitive poaching” among the Big 4 firms. PwC and KPMG, in particular, have a long history of poaching from one another.

But with the Big 4 firms’ legal brands showing huge growth among alternative legal service providers, what is starting to become more commonplace is a law firm poaching a partner from a Big 4 firm, and vice versa. A few years ago, Caleb mentioned that EY Legal stole 12 lawyers away from two law firms to start a financial regulatory practice in London.

But, damn, KPMG France took poaching lawyers to a whole new level recently.

From Economia:

The Big Four firm has been threatened with legal action by France’s largest law practice.

According to a report in Le Figaro, 130 lawyers resigned suddenly from Fidal and jumped ship to KPMG’s growing French legal services division. …

All of the hires were based in Paris, where Fidal employs 480 of its total 1,400 lawyers.

Legal Business magazine reported that the ex-Fidal lawyers will join the Big 4 firm’s newly created French legal practice, KPMG Avocats:

The tax-focused team includes 26 partners, and KPMG Avocats plans to eventually grow its headcount to more than 400.

KPMG and Fidal had a rosy working relationship for decades. Fidal was affiliated with KPMG’s network until the early 2000s, and after that, the two firms formed a non-exclusive partnership, according to reports. But that relationship ended in July 2018, according to Le Figaro.

[Translated from French to English]

But KPMG, which, like other large auditing firms, decided to diversify into the more lucrative consulting business, denounced the deal in July 2018.

“They suggested we become part of their overall network, which we refused to do, and then each have our own teams,” says Yves de Sevin, president of Fidal.

What is giving de Sevin a major case of red ass is KPMG allegedly broke a clause in the firms’ separation agreement that prohibits poaching of any kind until 2020. So, Fidal is planning to sue KPMG for unfair competition, according to Le Figaro:

“This is unacceptable and the reverse of what is done in the context of good faith relations,” says the leader of Fidal.

Going Concern has sent an email to KPMG France’s media relations team seeking comment, but we have yet to hear back from them. However, they pleaded innocent in a statement to Legal Business:

“On 2 July 2018, KPMG International gave a 12-month notice to terminate the cooperation agreement with Fidal,” said a spokesperson for KPMG. “The constructive proposals, made to Fidal to ensure the future of their teams dedicated to the KPMG network, were rejected by the representatives of Fidal. In this context, a number of professionals have decided to leave Fidal and have expressed their wish to join KPMG Avocats.”

KPMG announced on Feb. 6 that its legal services business boosted its revenue globally by 30% last year, but the firm hasn’t disclosed how much its legal arm actually made.