Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Simmons & Simmons are set to battle it out to advise Barclays Bank on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into bank services to small businesses.
The heavyweight competition teams have been invited to pitch for the high-profile role, after Barclays’ former competition adviser, ex-Simmons’ partner Peter Freeman, left to join the Competition Commission in August 2004.
The OFT review comes four years after the Competition Commission found that Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) charged excessive prices to small businesses. It recommended measures to increase competition between the big four banks.
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.
All the firms involved declined to comment.