Former acting chairman of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), Vinod Dhall, has tied up with London-based law firm Linklaters, to offer legal consultancy services for foreign companies with a presence in India.
“This is an independent and loose arrangement with Linklaters,” said Dhall in a telephonic interview, without specifying what his firm would do with Linklaters. Dhall resigned from the CCI in June, four months before his term was supposed to end.
The Financial Times, which reported the Linklaters-Dhall tie-up in its September 1 edition, has described the deal as a “best friend’s agreement” under which both would cross refer clients and Dhall would train Linklaters lawyers on Indian anti-competition law. It added that the deal was between Linklaters’ and Dhall’s unnamed New Delhi-based consultancy firm.
When asked whether there is any bar on former CCI officials on post-retirement work of this sort, Dhall said: “There is no bar on having such an agreement. The Competition Act clearly specifies that one cannot take up employment with an enterprise that has been party to the proceedings at the CCI. Linklaters has never been part of any proceedings before the CCI and has had no relations of any sort with the Commission.”
Dhall added that the CCI’s interactions had been limited to local law firms.
Linklaters, which has an office in India, advised the $1.9-billion initial public offer of Cairn India and the $700-million AIM listing of Unitech Corporate Parks plc, the company website states.
Only last month, Linklaters hired Jeffrey Schmidt, who worked as director of the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as partner in its United States competition, anti-trust practice.
The Indian Parliament amended the Competition Act, 2002, last year. However, the rules are yet to be notified, leading to the CCI being in a limbo, without the requisite staff including the chairperson and members. Under the Act, merger and acquisitions have to be cleared by the CCI, which can take up to 210 days to take a decision. Deals between two foreign companies that have a presence in India will also come under the purview of the Act.