APPC climbs down in DLA Piper OFT saga

Three lobbying industry bodies have clubbed together in a perceived attempt to defuse DLA Piper‘s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) complaint for anticompetitive behaviour.

As revealed by The Lawyer (10 September), DLA Piper referred the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) to the OFT, claiming the body was trying to persuade government agencies to work exclusively with its members on lobbying issues.

This would have resulted in lawyers being forced to join an organisation that requires clients to be named, contravening client confidentiality.

APPC, in conjunction with CIPR Government Affairs Group and the Public Relations Consultants Association, has now changed this position.

The trio has unveiled a new set of guiding principles of conduct, which no longer require that clients should be named or that lobbyists have to be members of one of the public affairs bodies.

Mike Pullen, DLA Piper Europe, Middle East and Africa competition, trade and transport head, said this is a major climbdown from APPC’s initial position.

“We welcome the general principles, but we’re not backing down on the OFT complaint,” explained Pullen. “There should be a public register in Westminster and an independent disciplinary tribunal for lobbyists, who should also be held accountable for money laundering, as is expected of lawyers.”

APPC secretary Mary Shearer said the guiding principles were not a U-turn on the organisation’s policy, nor was it in response to DLA Piper’s complaint, as the initiative had been in the pipeline for some time.