Thursday, May 23, 2024

Barings Versus Nomura-Backed Corinthia: A Legal Battle Rooted in Talent Acquisition and the Private Credit Market


In a dramatic turn of events that has rippled through the financial sector, Barings, a subsidiary of US life insurer MassMutual, has taken legal steps against Corinthia Global Management, a private credit firm backed by Nomura, after a significant number of its top private credit team members switched over to the newly established competitor.

The legal battle commenced with Barings filing for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Corinthia in a North Carolina court this Monday. The filing came in the wake of over 20 of its employees, led by notable figures Ian Fowler and Kelsey Tucker, departing for Corinthia. This mass exit has been described by Barings as one of the “largest corporate raids at an asset manager in years,” putting the spotlight on the fiercely competitive nature of talent acquisition in the burgeoning private credit market.

Following this team exodus, Barings has been forced to halt all new investments in private credit funds temporarily, a move that could have significant implications for the firm’s operations. The private credit sector, valued at an impressive $1.7tn, has seen traditional lenders and financial institutions vying for a share of the market, eager to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the growing domain that flourished as banks retreated from lending to small and medium-sized businesses post-financial crisis due to stringent regulations.

The departure of such a considerable portion of its team has cast doubts on the future of Barings’ $50bn direct lending business. In situations where senior fund managers resign, legal fund documents typically activate a ‘key man clause’ which necessitates a pause in investment activities, indicating potential delays and disruptions in fund operations.

Barings’ lawsuit alleges that Corinthia’s success in attracting employees and potentially clients hinges on its former employees’ ability to entice them away from Barings. This claim underscores the competitive undercurrents and the high stakes involved in the private credit market.

The suit also highlights attempts by Corinthia, founded in 2022 by former real estate executive Paul Weightman, to recruit additional members from Barings’ private credit team. This aggressive recruitment strategy has alarmed Barings, leading to the current legal confrontation.

As traditional financial institutions like Nomura seek to carve out a space for themselves in private credit, partnerships and acquisitions have become common strategies. Players such as Ares, HPS Investment Partners, and others have significantly benefited from this shift, drawing substantial investments to their private credit offerings.

Barings, with its substantial funds raised for private credit strategies from notable investors, finds itself at a critical juncture following the launch of this lawsuit. The firm had previously secured a €7bn fund to support midmarket companies in Europe, marking one of its most substantial fundraising successes.

As the legal proceedings unfold, Corinthia has made clear its intention to fiercely defend against any claims put forth by Barings, assuring that the departing employees would adhere to their enforceable post-termination obligations. The legal battle represents not just a fight over talent and strategy but also underscores the intense competition and strategic maneuvering prevalent in the rapidly evolving private credit market.

Natalie Kimura
Natalie Kimura
Natalie Kimura is a business correspondent known for her in-depth interviews and feature articles. With a background in International Business and a passion for global economic affairs, Natalie has traveled extensively, providing her with a unique perspective on international trade and global market dynamics. She started her career in Tokyo, contributing to various financial journals, and later moved to London to expand her expertise in European markets. Natalie's expertise lies in international trade agreements, foreign investment patterns, and economic policy analysis.

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