Slaughters under fire after British Energy probe

Slaughter and May racked up fees of £7m advising the government on the British Energy restructuring, it emerged today (17 March) – but the National Audit Office (NAO) has criticised the way the firm was appointed.

In its report on the restructuring, the NAO criticised the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for not running a competitive tendering process to appoint Slaughters, Credit Suisse First Boston and Deloitte as advisers.

The three firms were already acting for the DTI on other matters when British Energy approached the DTI for help in September 2002.

The report reveals that between September 2002 and the end of the restructuring in January 2005, Slaughters was paid £7m in fees. The firm’s hourly rates were “reviewed and increased” in January 2004.

The firm was appointed after the DTI extended an existing contract, which the firm had won through a competitive tender.

Credit Suisse was paid £11m in fees, while Deloitte pulled in £10m. The DTI paid other legal advisers in Canada, the US and Scotland, including McGrigors, a total of £397,000 in the same period.

The fees pale into insignificance when compared to Clifford Chance’s £25.7m payout for work done for British Energy itself.

Slaughters partner Charles Randell, who acted for the DTI, could not be reached for comment.