28 June 2010 | By Andrew Pugh
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Particularly where litigation and regulation are concerned, business is booming for Capital One Bank general counsel Rupert MacInnes.
If you find those no-win, no-fee ads on daytime TV annoying then spare a thought for Rupert MacInnes, general counsel at Capital One Bank.
Claims management companies promising to write off credit cards and loans are now commonplace and have led to a sharp rise in litigation against companies like Capital One. It is a big headache for MacInnes and his team. And, unlike many other financial institutions, Capital One is not afforded the luxury of outsourcing the matters, instead handling all such cases in-house.
“We have seen a big increase in relation to consumer litigation and it’s mainly been driven by two factors: one is the rise of claims management companies,” explains MacInnes. “No one can avoid seeing those advertisements on TV in the middle of day and they obviously generate a high number of claims. We’ve also seen a big rise in the number of consumer activism websites.
“Fortunately there have been a number of recent cases that have been favourable to the industry. Plenty of these companies are good and legitimate, while others are advertising claims that they can’t handle and it’s good that action’s being taken.”
Regulation is another area where MacInnes and his team have been kept busy. The financial services industry was already one of the most regulated industries before the credit crisis but the team has since had to get to grips with new rules and the increasingly tough stance of new regulators promised under the coalition government.
As with litigation, the company handles most regulatory issues in-house to keep down its legal spend. “We have the expertise and believe we’re well placed in terms of understanding where legislation is going,” says MacInnes. “If we identify areas of law that are particularly novel then we’ll seek outside counsel, but that’s more as a benchmark to check our own interpretations.”
MacInnes joined the company from Allen & Overy in 2002 and became head of legal five years later. He now heads a 15-strong team. His reason for moving in-house are familiar; MacInnes says he was eager for more involvement on the business side and to see deals through from cradle to grave.
“It’s good to see how your advice and counsel can influence decisions,” he says. “You get involved in the heart of the business and that’s a complete clincher for me. There’s also still the opportunity to get down into the detail and complexity of the law, like in private practice.”
His duties at Capital One are varied and as well as litigation and regulation he has close involvement in risk compliance and lobbying activities. Last year Capital One sold its saving business to Skipton Building Society and the legal team was instrumental in gaining court approval to finalise the transaction.
“We don’t want to fix ourselves down with a particular firm,” explains MacInnes. “Our needs change and we don’t outsource masses and masses of work. My view is there’s some really exciting work and if we have the appetite to do it then we should do it.
“It means there’s always people in the team who can develop new areas of the law and not just focus on one area. We don’t want to outsource what we see as all the good stuff.”
While MacInnes insists his team works closely with the business element, he also admits than tensions can sometimes emerge. “We very much see ourselves as partners to help them deliver their agenda. The most important thing is to have a legal function that understands the business in which we operate and to really build up trust with our partners in business.
“There are sometimes tensions in the need to manage compliance and risk and their agenda but the legal team gets involved very early with all products. They’re very aware that we’re a heavily regulated industry.”
Name: Rupert MacInnes
Company: Capital One Bank (Europe)
Position: General Counsel
Industry: Retail financial services
Company total operating income: £550m
Annual legal spend:£250k
Global legal capability:15
Main law firms:Addleshaw Goddard, CMS Cameron McKenna, Eversheds
1993: LLB, University of Southampton
1994: College Of Law, Guildford
2001: MBA, Imperial College Management School
1994-96: Trainee, Allen & Overy
1997-98: Secondee, LIFFE
1996-2000: Banking and finance litigation and regulatory associate, Allen & Overy
2002-07: In-house counsel, Capital One Bank (Europe) plc
2007/08: Head of Legal, Capital One Bank (Europe) plc
2009-present: Head of legal and company sSecretary, Capital One Bank (Europe)