GLOBAL ANTITRUST HOT TOPICS
EU, US AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
Interview with Ben Graham (AB-InBev)
Concurrences Review will organise the fourth edition of the Global Antitrust Hot Topics in Brussels on 8 September 2016. Ben Graham (Global Head of Antitrust, AB InBev) was interviewed by Catriona Hatton (Partner, Baker Botts). They will participate in the panel "A View from the Inside: In-house Counsels Reflections and Practical Tips".
To see the full programm, please visit the event website.
Catriona Hatton: How do you see the role of in-house counsel in dealing with multijurisdictional merger control and what are the biggest challenges?
Ben Graham: To me, a key part of the in-house counsel role on any project is helping to translate what the outside lawyers are saying to what the company understands. In a multi-jurisdictional merger control project, in-house counsel is responsible for making sure there aren’t any gaps, meaning not just are we making merger filings everywhere we need to, but also are the right teams in place internally to gather necessary information, is it clear which internal lawyer owns the process in each jurisdiction and are we joined up with the investor relations and other external communications elements? Perhaps most important of all, in-house counsel needs to keep discipline in the process, making sure the right priorities are being followed, that next steps and deadlines are clear and everything is moving forwards in the right direction.
As for the challenges, I found it personally challenging that I went from being the main antitrust expert in the company, to being one of a number of people in-house focused on antitrust, and supported by a host of external legal, economic and other experts. It’s a very sudden and unusual situation. You must also learn to be resilient. At points in the process you will face many queries, requests, problems and issues raised by a large number of competition authorities. It takes real resilience to face up to this scrutiny, and persevere. That emotional side is a real challenge.
Catriona Hatton: What are the key attributes you look for when you are hiring external counsel?
Ben Graham: I look first and foremost for outside counsel who gives me full confidence that they know the procedure we are facing inside out, and proactively comes with ideas to navigate that process. I want to be clear on everything myself and be able to report internally what our next steps are going to be. Great counsel can set that all out simply and confidently. Going back to resilience, counsel who shows some understanding of that is also valuable. In particular for mergers or conduct investigations, there are significant costs involved, we’re under pressure to deliver and our focus is on results. We are generally less interested in being part of developing competition law. These are exceptional circumstances, difficult circumstances for the company. Show that you understand that.
Catriona Hatton: If you had one request to make to antitrust regulators, what would that be?
Ben Graham: I would always encourage antitrust regulators to view in-house counsel as their allies. Fundamental to developing a real global corporate culture of antitrust compliance is mutual trust and respect between antitrust regulators and the in-house counsel trying to implement compliance with the rules those regulators are enforcing. I see that as the way forward.
This 4th edition of the Global Antitrust Hot Topics half-day conference is organized by Concurrences Review in partnership with Baker Botts. Concurrences cultivates scholarship and discussion on antitrust issues through publications, books and conferences. Concurrences Review is supervised by an editorial board and a steering committee to ensure independence, objectivity and academic excellence. See photos, videos and synthesis of last year edition here.
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