Concerns of a conflict of interest surrounding Simmons & Simmons partner Jenny Block’s appointment to the postal regulator Postcomm have been raised in Parliament by Brighton Pavillion MP Caroline Lucas.
Block, a competition partner and specialist on EU and UK merger control and regulation, was seconded to Postcomm as interim legal director on 1 January 2010 until the autumn. She works at the regulator on a part-time basis and maintains her fee-earning work at Simmons.
However, this has raised concerns about whether it poses a conflicts of interest for the regulator to have a partner on board from a firm that acts for other clients in the sector.
Brighton Pavillion Caroline Lucas asked a written question in Parliament to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable on Monday 5 July, enquiring whether the appointment “complies with Article 22 of the Postal Services Directive on the independence of national regulatory authorities from postal operators”.
A Postcomm spokesperson responded: “Postcomm has agreed appropriate and robust contractual terms in the secondment agreement between Postcomm and Simmons & Simmons that address confidentiality, working practices and the relationship between Jenny Block, Simmons & Simmons and Postcomm during the secondment. In common with all commissioners and executive board members at Postcomm, Jenny has signed a declaration of interest and details of these declarations are published on Postcomm’s website.”
The spokesperson continued: “Postcomm and Simmons & Simmons are fully aware of the need to avoid potential conflicts of interest in making these arrangements and Simmons & Simmons has managed such arrangements on a number of occasions in compliance with its regulatory and professional obligations. Postcomm has very serious regard for its status as the independent national regulatory authority for the postal sector in the United Kingdom and has robust appointment and recruitment procedures to ensure any potential conflicts of interest are addressed prior to appointment.”
Simmons declined to comment.