GC100 opens door to company secretaries for added muscle

Following her appointment as chair of the General Counsel 100 (GC100), National Grid general counsel and company secretary Helen Mahy has told The Lawyer that the lobby group will be expanded to include company secretaries.

Mahy believes company secretaries will provide additional clout as she outlines her plans for her year as chair. Mahy highlighted burdensome regulatory issues as the major concern among UK companies. She said: “Regulation, regulation, regulation – there’s so much more of it these days and I’d say it’s the issue of most concern to our members.”

Last year the group was part of a campaign to seek amendments to the forthcoming Companies Bill from imposing more restrictions on UK business.

The GC100 also slammed the provisions relating to directors’ duties and shareholder remedies, warning that the proposals making it easier for shareholders to bring lawsuits against company directors could be abused by disgruntled shareholders and be used to block takeovers.

Mahy, formerly the joint vice-chair of the GC100, said the pressure on legal advisers was mounting as regulatory issues increased.

“The issues we’re concerned about are to do with company law reform and the fact that many of us are going to have to produce interim management statements,” she said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done with regards to company law reform, but if our members want us to lobby a campaign, then we’ll do that. It’s up to them.”

The decision to allow company secretaries into the group is expected to attract new blood to assist the group as it prepares to continue the fight against burdensome regulation.

At present almost half of its members occupy a dual role of company secretary and general counsel.

Mahy, who is one of those members, said: “I’m very pleased that a decision has been made to include company secretaries, considering a lot of our members have split roles as both general counsel and company secretary.

“I think we’re going to attract new members and that’s certainly going to strengthen our group enormously.”

Scottish & Newcastle company secretary and general counsel Peter Kennerley said: “A lot of what we’re doing is corporate governance, which is centred on the company secretary, so it makes sense to have them included in the group. It also means there’ll be added expertise.”

The news was announced at the GC100’s annual general meeting, where Mahy was elected to replace Barclays legal chief Mark Harding as chair.

The GC100 was launched in March 2005 by general counsel at FTSE100 companies to share best practice in relation to the law, risk management and compliance. The group has become a strong voice within the business community on crucial issues such as extradition.

Other new appointments include Peter Maynard, group head of legal at Prudential, who was elected joint vice-chair, alongside Reuters company secretary and general counsel Rosemary Martin.

GlaxoSmithKline general counsel and senior vice-president Rupert Bondy and Christopher Roberts, general counsel and senior vice-president of Reckitt Benckiser, were elected to the executive committee.

In her new role Mahy aimed to continue the work of Harding, saying she believed the group was an imperative voice for in-house legal teams.

“I think we can be effective in a quiet way – that’s more my style, as I’m not the type to shout from the rooftops,” she said.