Competition Commission increases legal by a third

The Competition Com-mission has boosted its legal team by 33 per cent and plans to increase its economics department by up to 100 per cent

The regulator is now moving to address information leakage issues raised by its decision to bring in new recruits from the private sector.

The commission's legal department has adopted a 'revolving door' approach to recruitment, similar to that used in the US, where it is standard practice for competition lawyers to move between law firms and regulators such as the Federal Trade Commission.

The regulator currently has just 12 economists, but hopes to take this number up to more than 20 to cope with changes under the Enterprise Act, which provides it with much wider powers in merger and cartel cases.

Last month, the commission also took on lawyers with private sector experience for the first time, when three lawyers from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Herbert Smith and Linklaters joined as case-handlers.

Chief Executive Robert Foster said: “We're well on track to having a better balance now.” However, one consequence of the recruitment drive is that the regulator will send fewer instructions to its external panel of legal advisers, which consists mainly of sole practitioners.

The commission must now come up with a conflicts policy to regulate poachers turned gamekeepers. “We're having to explore the extent to which we can impose restrictive covenants,” Foster explained. He said the regulator would probably rely on a formal code of conduct for staff who left for the private sector after a term at the commission.

The commission has seen a massive expansion across all of its departments in the last year: 12 months ago it had 100 staff – it now has 170 and wants this figure to increase to up to 220.