CC triumphs over rivals to defend Barclays against OFT

Clifford Chance has cemented its ties with Barclays by bagging the key mandate to advise the bank on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into bank services to small businesses.

The magic circle firm pitched for the sought-after role against fellow heavyweight competition teams from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Simmons & Simmons.

Clifford Chance competition partner Oliver Bretz is understood to be leading the team, but he declined to comment.

Clifford Chance’s win underlines the increasing closeness between the magic circle firm and the bank. Barclays put the instruction out to tender after its former competition adviser, ex-Simmons partner Peter Freeman, left to join the Competition Commission.

The OFT review comes four years after the Competition Commission found that Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had charged excessive prices to small businesses.

It recommended measures to increase competition between the big four banks and concluded that the undertakings ought to be reviewed three years after their implementation.

RBS has instructed Linklaters after it replaced Freshfields as the bank’s chief legal adviser. Freshfields advised the bank on the initial inquiry in 2002.

Norton Rose is advising HSBC and Herbert Smith is understood to be acting for Lloyds TSB. Both Norton Rose and Herbert Smith acted for their respective clients during the previous OFT investigation.