Three lawyers, including British American Tobacco's (BAT) in-house counsel, have been appointed to the Competition Commission's reporting panel.
Stephen Walzer, assistant general counsel of BAT, Laurence Elks, a former partner at Nabarro Nathanson, and Diana Guy, a consultant and former partner at Theodore Goddard, were all appointed to the reporting panel. The panel handles inquiries referred by other UK regulatory authorities and has been extended as part of the Government's plans to give the Competition Commission more powers. The Enterprise Bill will make the Competition Commission a virtually independent regulator with absolute power over decisions on most mergers and complex monopolies. The positions were advertised in the national press and around 800 applications were received. The members were appointed from a broad cross-section of applicants from academia, industry, economists, accountancy and the law. The appointments are for four-year renewable terms and members work for around two days per week when involved on an inquiry. The posts are remunerated, but the salaries are unlikely to bear any resemblance to what the lawyers were paid in practice. Walzer had personal reasons for wanting to join the Competition Commission. He said: "As you get closer to retirement, you look at how you can put things back." He has been at BAT for 10 years, prior to that he was in-house at British Petroleum. He believes that as a lawyer and an in-house counsel he has particular skills to offer the regulator. "Someone who comes from industry and has dirt under their nails brings a very useful approach to the Competition Commission," he said. At BAT, Walzer covers European Union, United Nations, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and World Trade Organisation law. BAT is pleased with his appointment and he will continue working at the company part time. As with other members, he will not sit on inquiries where there is a potential for conflict of interest. And while BAT has had run-ins with the European Commission about some of its activities, it has never yet come under the scrutiny of the Competition Commission.