A long, prosperous partnership

A long, prosperous partnership

 

As Huntington Bank celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2016, it will also mark another milestone — the 125th anniversary of working closely with Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, central Ohio’s oldest law firm and the region’s oldest continuing business. Neither party could have foreseen how closely intertwined their success and growth would become as the decades progressed.

As Huntington Bank celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2016, it will also mark another milestone — the 125th anniversary of working closely with Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, central Ohio’s oldest law firm and the region’s oldest continuing business.1 Neither party could have foreseen how closely intertwined their success and growth would become as the decades progressed.

Law firm records show that Porter Wright, founded in 1846, was handling P.W. Huntington & Co.’s legal needs as of 1891. Then as now, Porter Wright was considered a leader among Columbus’ highly regarded corporate law firms. Following the business practices of the time, Porter Wright likely had P.W. Huntington as a client, though the law firm has no such records, Porter Wright Senior Partner Robert Trafford said.

“Clients didn’t have in-house lawyers,” Trafford said. “They just called the firm their lawyers. We provided a generally comprehensive service, anything of a legal nature.”2

That practice continued well into the 1970s and 1980s among many major industries, including banking.

“When I joined as a first-year associate in 1977 and worked on the Huntington account, (Huntington) only had two in-house lawyers, and only one was a senior attorney,” Trafford said. “Essentially the firm handled any legal issue of importance for Huntington.”

Huntington, like other banks nationwide, began expanding in the 1960s and 1970s in response to changing legal and regulatory restrictions. Porter Wright’s legal team, led by Rocky Morris, helped by doing “most of the corporate work on acquisitions that created the modern day Huntington as we know it,” Trafford said.3

Huntington’s successful, groundbreaking takeover of Union Commerce Corp. of Cleveland in 1982 marked a turning point in the growth of the bank and its principal law firm.

“If it wasn’t the first hostile takeover of a bank, it was one of the first,” Trafford said.

In prior years, all bank mergers of any size had been amenable, reflecting the wishes of state and federal regulators to maintain the soundness of the financial system. In this case, the Federal Reserve Board effectively favored Huntington’s bid for Union Commerce over that of a bid from a rival bank sought by Union Commerce based on Huntington’s management prowess and financial strength, Trafford said.4

The purchase of Union Commerce made Huntington a major presence in Cleveland. The law firm followed suit and opened an office there, too.

Porter Wright opened offices in Dayton and Cincinnati largely to serve Huntington’s legal needs. When Huntington’s trust business followed its snowbird retirees to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Porter Wright opened an office in Naples, Florida, for the same reason.5

Porter Wright, with 250 lawyers, is a corporate law and litigation powerhouse at the state and federal level. It hasn’t forgotten the source of much of its past success.

“Our firm’s development is largely due to its work with Huntington,” Trafford said.6

Richard_Almgill_Harrison

Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur traces its roots to 1846, when founder Richard Harrison began practicing law in London, Ohio.