DLA Piper takes on US class action firms

DLA Piper takes on US class action firms” />
DLA Piper is attempting to see off a US attack on the UK competition market by launching its own team representing both defendants and claimants in private and class actions.

Mike Pullen, the firm’s head of competition and trade in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is launching a pan-European group of around 20 lawyers to work on private actions resulting from competition law breaches.

“It’s driven by client demand,” Pullen said. “We’re in all the right jurisdictions and we have strength in contentious competition work. You can’t rely purely on litigation teams.”

The group will work with teams in Australia and the US, giving a total headcount of 40 lawyers.

The European group will work for both defendants and claimants. Private actions are a hot topic, but many City firms, such as Slaughter and May, have decided to concentrate purely on defence work.

The framework for individual claims already exists, but last month the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) put out a discussion paper designed to raise awareness of private actions, as first reported by The Lawyer (18 April).

DLA Piper’s move is a response to the arrival in the UK of US class action boutique Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll, which launched by hiring DLA Piper’s former head of competition Rob Murray. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is also starting a London defence practice for class actions.

DLA Piper has a key role on the first representative action for anticompetitive behaviour to be brought by consumer group Which?, advising defendant JJB Sports. It turns on a 2003 OFT probe into price collusion between JJB Sports, Umbro, all:sports and others over replica football shirts, which culminated in an £18.6m fine.