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The regulator has taken on Freshfields senior associate Alastair Mordaunt for the role, which involves leading on casework delivery and management of all the UK mergers that are notified to the OFT.
Mordaunt told The Lawyer: "While it was difficult to leave a great team at Freshfields, the role was too good to pass up. It offers the opportunity to join a highly regarded and impressive team and play an important role in the operation of the UK's merger control regime."
Mordaunt's departure is bittersweet for Freshfields, which hired partner Simon Priddis from the OFT in January.
London managing partner for competition Rod Carlton commented: "We're delighted the OFT's recognised Alastair's multijurisdictional antitrust experience and strong leadership qualities. Alastair made an important contribution to our London competition team and no doubt he'll do a great job as director of mergers." Mordaunt will work under senior director Simon Pritchard since a team restructure split the role into two.
The regulator has generally sought to bulk up its legal capability, particularly in the criminal and cartel practice, as imminent regulatory changes will give the OFT powers to dole out sanctions, including a direction to imprison defendants (The Lawyer, 6 August).
The OFT has a precedent of hiring up-and-coming lawyers from the magic circle. In April Clifford Chance competition partner Sonya Branch joined as senior director of goods.