Supermarket giants braced for massive legal bill

The UK’s big four supermarket chains are expecting a large financial hit in external legal fees and long hours and big headaches for their in-house counsel for the next 12 months in the wake of a competition investigation into the grocery sector.

Tesco group corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Asda UK legal director Ellie Doohan, J Sainsbury’s general counsel Nick Grant and Wm Morrison company secretary Jonathan Burke have all had to instruct external counsel to advise them on competition issues after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the grocery sector investigation to the Competition Commission.

Collectively, the legal heads are expecting the investigation to as much as double their legal spends for the year, with one supermarket legal head expecting the cost to his company alone to be close to £25m.

Asda’s Doohan has instructed Slaughter and May while J Sainsbury’s Grant has instructed Linklaters. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is working closely with Tesco’s Neville-Rolfe and Ashurst has been instructed by Wm Morrison’s Burke.