With telecoms in constant flux, BT Retail GC Gordon Moir has had to ring the changes on an almost daily basis.
Being a member of the legal team at BT has long been one of the more interesting in-house jobs in the market. Ever since the telecoms company was privatised in 1984, new entrants to the market have been appearing regularly.
The explosion in broadband providers and satellite TV added to the mix and the ensuing years have been a learning curve of post-nationalisation, creating a market that is studied by other countries looking to follow the UK model.
“It’s a game of 3D chess, both regulatory and commercially,” says BT’s grandmaster Gordon Moir, general counsel of BT Retail and group head of antitrust and regulatory law. “A large number of the cases that appear in front of the Competition Commission are telecoms cases. They’re often complex economic and legal arguments – the sums tend to be large and there are lots ofstakeholders.”
As one of the largest stakeholders in the world, this puts Moir up to his ears in the catfight among the companies all vying to keep us connected by telephone, satellite TV and broadband.
And BT’s relationship with Sky, for example, shows why Moir has a challenge on his hands. Sky is BT’s biggest competitor, with the pair going head-to-head for internet broadband customers, but is also one of BT’s biggest customers. BT sells Sky wholesale products and Sky uses BT’s phone lines to supply its broadband.
Moir’s team was responsible for creating the framework for BT Openreach, a subsidiary that maintains and operates the wires, fibres and connections that link homes and offices around the country to the telephone exchange, on behalf of some 450 internet providers (including BT Retail).
This groundbreaking structure allowed BT to be both a competitor of, and supplier to, many of its own customers, as is the case with Sky.
The complex arrangements have a sea of inter-company and external regulatory law surrounding them, with the Competition Commission on speed-dial for all parties.
Part of the BT fold since 1999, Moir was promoted to head the retail side of the business in March last year. During his time in the role BT remodelled its legal departments, announcing two ‘centres of excellence’, one of which – focusing on groupwide antitrust and regulatory issues – Moir also leads, making use of his wide experience of international telecoms regimes.
Moir’s CV clearly shows his eligibility for the post, listing (among other things) a period spent creating telecoms regulations in New Zealand.
“It was a fascinating time with some tough debates. Rarely as a lawyer do you get to argue principles and policy,” he says, recalling his time spent in the southern hemisphere.
Now based in BT’s head office near St Paul’s Cathedral, Moir is concerned with ensuring that BT is fully involved in the regulatory changes occurring in other European countries.
Opening up the telecoms markets with nationalised telecoms providers is now an ongoing task for BT and requires the company to have lawyers posted to all of the world’s hotspots.
“The UK regime was the first to drive a split in the incumbents,” he says. “Most of the regulatory dialogue we take part in now is based around international regulations, and we have the resources to discover what’s happening in Germany, France etc.
“Because it’s a heavily regulated industry it’s incredibly complex, so having international advisers who are living and breathing the regulations on the ground is essential.”
BT Group is currently in the midst of a panel review, which is due to be finalised in the next six to eight weeks. The review includes new tasks and challenges for the firms, including the pilot of an e-auction.
Soon after taking over as retail legal head, Moir drove through an unusual idea of his own by outsourcing an internal legal team to Delhi. The team of 30 lawyers was trained in the UK and before being posted to India. Moir says the team works on contracts and performs research “mainly to do with support services”.
Exactly how the group was persuaded to up sticks and move will be of great interest to other companies – as well as legal firms. Moir, though, is careful not to reveal too much.
“Law firms are asking us how it works, but it’s really about retaining lawyers,” he reveals. “It’s the way we’ll continue to go because it’s been very efficient. It’s about doing the right work in the right places.”
Current projects for the BT Retail team include Project Canvas, a joint venture with ITV and the BBC to bring the internet to our living room TVs. It is a big job involving both the BBC Trust and Ofcom, and so far “tech trials have been good”, says Moir.
Which means new regulations and more complex relationships – food and drink to Moir and his team.
Name: Gordon Moir
Company: British Telecommunications (BT)
Positions: General counsel, BT Retail, and head of antitrust and regulatory law, BT Group
Reporting to: BT Group general counsel Anne Fletcher
Company turnover: BT Retail – £8.4bn; BT Group – £21.4bn
Number of employees: 147,000 (BT Group)
Legal capability: BT Retail – 60; BT Group – 500
Main external law firms: Addleshaw Goddard, Bird & Bird, HBJ Gateley Wareing, Linklaters
Legal spend: £40m (estimated)
Gordon Moir’s CV
1989-94: LLB, University of Aberdeen
1996-97: LLM, Advanced European Law, cum laude, College of Europe, Bruges
1994-96: Trainee, McGrigors
1998: Stagiaire, European Court of Justice
1998-99: Assistant solicitor, Ashurst Morris Crisp
1999-2000: Secondment, BT
2000-01: Head of regulation, BT Asia-Pacific, New Zealand
2001-07: Vice-president, commercial, legal and regulatory for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific, BT
2008-present: General counsel, BT Retail and head of antitrust and regulatory law, BT Group