Bakers in fee dispute with Australian govt over renewable energy sell-off

Baker & McKenzie has become embroiled in a political debate after pocketing A$1.6m (£640,000) in legal fees for advising the Australian government on its aborted privatisation of the Snowy Hydro scheme.

The US-headquartered firm, which has offices in Sydney and Melbourne, advised the New South Wales (NSW) state government on the proposed sale of Snowy Hydro, Australia’s largest renewable energy supplier.

The sale was halted in June after Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared that the Commonwealth was no longer interested in selling its 13 per cent stake in the company following pressure from the public.

Bakers’ fees were subsequently revealed after the NSW treasury was forced to release documents detailing the cost to taxpayers of the aborted privatisation. The fees were part of a total of more than A$12m (£4.82m) paid by the government to bankers, lawyers and advertising agencies.

It is understood that, five days before Howard’s announcement, the firm advised the government to consider abandoning the A$3bn (£1.21bn) float because of legal uncertainty surrounding the sale.

Bakers declined to comment.