Raft of firms win roles on OFT’s accounting giant investigation

Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters are among a raft of firms to have won roles advising on an investigation into the accountancy sector that was started by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) but has now been passed to the Competition Commission.

Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Hogan Lovells and Norton Rose have also been appointed by major players in the market, with at least seven accountancy firms hiring outside counsel, including all of the ‘Big Four’ of Deloitte, Ernst & Young (E&Y), KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Freshfields is understood to be advising Deloitte, with competition partner Deirdre Trapp in the lead role and disputes head Christopher Pugh – who has strong ties to both Deloitte and E&Y- also thought to be involved.

With Freshfields conflicted, E&Y is understood to have turned to Hogan Lovells partners Lesley Ainsworth and competition co-head Susan Bright.

Linklaters partner Michael Cutting won a mandate from KPMG, while PwC is instructing a Norton Rose team led by global antitrust, competition and regulatory head Martin Coleman and contentious competition partner Peter Scott.

Outside the ‘Big Four’, Grant Thornton has hired an Ashurst team headed by Duncan Liddell and BLP partner Adrian Magnus is understood to be acting for BDO. Mazars is understood to have turned to Clifford Chance.

The OFT launched the investigation into the sector in response to the large proportion of FTSE100 companies using the ‘Big Four’ for auditing services. It referred the matter to the Competition Commission last July, with a number of law firms winning mandates in the summer, some after competitive tender processes.