David Middleton on the month in-house

Legal bickering delays Galileo flight

Eight in-house lawyers from across Europe have been butting heads over the Galileo satellite navigation system. Revelations earlier this month (The Lawyer, 1 May) showed that the lawyers have been unable to arrange a consortium agreement or constitution.

The general counsel and the companies involved include: Aena‘s Jesus Fernandez Rodriguez; Pascal Durand-Barthez of Alcatel; Finmeccanica‘s Luciano Acciari; Pedro Ramón and Cajal Agüeras of Hispasat; Inmarsat‘s Rupert Pearce; and Nick Rowe and Patrice Durand of Thales.

The public sector body looking to the private sector consortium to make Galileo fly has set a September deadline for the heads of terms documents to be finalised. As the project moves towards the pointy end of business, the EU and the European Space Agency are desperately hoping the general counsels can get their ship in order, with the E3.3bn (£2.26bn) project riding on it.

Microsoft awaits Commission ruling

Microsoft UK head of legal Chris Parker is an anxious man at the moment, waiting to see what the European Commission decides after eight years of investigation into compliance and antitrust issues.

Parker lashed out at the EU’s competition regulator in The Lawyer (10 April), claiming that Microsoft was the victim of a witch hunt and was wanted as a “head on a spike”.

The hearings have now finished, and Parker, together with Microsoft’s external counsel Sullivan & Cromwell, is waiting to hear the results.

Panel news

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Wragge & Co have been dumped as BT‘sprimary advisers following a major review of the telecoms giant’s legal panel. The review was negotiated safely by BT’s other main advisers, Addleshaw Goddard, Bird & Bird, Linklaters and Scottish adviser HBJ Gateley Wareing. BT general counsel Anne Fletcher said the key factors were the ability to provide “commercially driven and cost-effective advice, an excellent quality of service and a flexible and innovative approach to legal services”.

BT split its panel for the first time, with a group on general legal issues and a second specialist group. The seven specialist firms and their areas are: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (global M&A and IP); Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison (global M&A); Gilbert & Tobin (global regulatory and antitrust); Hogan & Hartson (global regulatory and antitrust); Jones Day (global regulatory and antitrust); Reed Smith (employment); and Pinsent Masons (outsourcing).

ABN Amro has appointed Lovells to its core adviser panel after conflicts of interest forced the Dutch investment bank to widen its sphere. Herbert Smith and Simmons & Simmons were also new appointments to the panel. Deputy general counsel John Collins, who spearheaded the review, said the panel structure had been overhauled to be relationship-driven within a specialist structure. More than 20 firms have been appointed. Other core advisers are A&O, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Linklaters.

The nine separate panels are: M&A and corporate; employment; litigation and regulation; debt and capital markets; structured finance; project finance; IT outsourcing; loans; and trade and structured dividends.

The global panel of A&O, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Linklaters was not involved in the review. has invited Herbert Smith, Kemp Little and Pinsents to pitch for its general commercial work to support its three-lawyer in-house function. In The Lawyer‘s In-house Interview (17 April), legal director Sanjay Lobo detailed the challenges the company has faced since its buyout by US travel giant Sabre Holdings in 2005, as well as plans to restructure European operations in France, Spain and Italy.

British Energy has made the first move towards overhauling its legal panel by sending out a formal request for tenders. Head of legal Jean MacDonald has contacted the existing panel, which includes firms such as Clifford Chance, Hammonds, MacRoberts, McGrigors and Morgan Cole. The review is expected to reduce the panel to six and bring more work in-house.

In-house hires

In other energy sector news, International Power has promoted Graham Methold to the position of Middle East general counsel following the departure of David Wadham, who is Ashurst bound. Methold will be based in Abu Dhabi from 1 July, taking the reins as the UK energy giant’s Middle East projects come online.

“The role will be a bit less about project development and a bit more about asset management as these projects develop,” explained Methold.

The internal structure will see Methold report to the regional managing director, with a dotted line back to company secretary Stephen Ramsay. Ramsay said the Middle East is a key growth area for the company, and more and more emphasis on project development will be taking place in the region.

West Bromwich Building Society appointed its first legal counsel, with former Wragges lawyer Simon Welch getting the gig. Welch joined from Nottingham Law School, where he had been a senior lecturer specialising in property and EU law. West Bromwich is the UK’s ninth-largest building society, with assets of more than £5bn and 800 staff, and is a longstanding client of Wragges.

In other financial sector appointments, Boodle Hatfield private client partner Ian Cain has resigned to become head of Goldman Sachs‘ UK strategic wealth advisory team. Moves such as these are double-edged swords for law firms. On one hand they lose a key fee-earning partner, but on the other it is likely to bring new business, or cement a relationship with an existing client.

The world’s second-largest IT company EDS has appointed Nick Rogers as head of litigation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and he brings with him a plan to overhaul the company’s external adviser choices. EDS currently uses DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary or SJ Berwin for large disputes, while Reading firm Boyes Turner is instructed on smaller matters. Rogers is a former DLA Piper litigation partner.

In other IT in-house news, Barclays Bank has hired Capgemini‘s former general counsel for UK and Ireland Barry Wong to head its legal IT outsourcing and supplier team. Wong had worked for A&O, Bristows and Norton Rose before moving in-house to join IBM. At Capgemini he headed a six-lawyer team, where the company beat EDS and Accenture in a bid to handle the Inland Revenue’s IT work. Following Wong’s shock departure, Capgemini promoted Jane Bevan to the role of general counsel for UK and Ireland.