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The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has given US behemoth Sullivan & Cromwell a slap on the wrist over a fundamental procedural rule - and US firms launching private competition litigation practices in the UK should take note.
Sullivan's Robert Osgood, who is a veteran US-qualified competition partner, was questioned by the CAT over his presence in a case management conference for a follow-on damages claim.
Despite Osgood heading Sullivan's London litigation, arbitration and European competition practices, he is not English-qualified.
CAT procedural rules state that only "a qualified lawyer having a right of audience before a court in the United Kingdom" can represent a party in the tribunal, unless the CAT specifically gives permission.
A transcript shows CAT chairman Marion Simmons QC telling Osgood: "We are interested to hear that in fact Sullivan & Cromwell does not do litigation, that they do not have English litigation solicitors."
The US has similar rules, where lawyers qualified in one state have to apply to appear in the court of another.
One insider said the comments were interesting given the spate of US firms, including Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, that are launching UK-based private class action teams.
"It shows the CAT is concerned that lawyers appearing before it are at least aware of its procedures," the insider said.
The case management conference was held prior to a 26 June hearing against Osgood's client Morgan Crucible.
The CAT told Osgood he should instruct a barrister by the time of the hearing as a way round the issue.
The CAT has accepted Osgood's application to appear for Morgan on 26 June, after he instructed Ben Rayment of Monckton Chambers.