Secretary of State announces decision and publishes CMA final report on Fox’s proposed acquisition of Sky

On 5 June 2018, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published the final report of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and announced his decision on the proposed acquisition by Fox of the remaining shares in Sky plc.

The CMA’s final report confirms its provisional finding that the transaction is not in the public interest due to media plurality concerns. The CMA concluded that the transaction may be expected to result in insufficient plurality of persons with control of media enterprises in the UK because it would lead to the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT), which owns 39% of Fox and News Corp, holding too great a degree of control over the diversity of viewpoints consumed by audiences in the UK, and would give the MFT too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda. The CMA also confirmed its provisional finding that there are no public interest concerns arising from lack of a genuine commitment to meeting broadcasting standards in the UK.

The CMA concluded that only prohibition or the divestiture of Sky News would provide an effective solution to the identified adverse public interest effects. Of these two options, the CMA recommended that the most effective and proportionate remedy would be the divestiture of Sky News to Disney or to another suitable upfront purchaser.

The Secretary of State has accepted the CMA’s findings and recommendations. Fox has written to the Secretary of State to offer undertakings on effectively the same terms as set out by the CMA in its final report. The Secretary of State has asked DCMS officials to begin immediate discussions with the parties to finalise the details of the undertakings with a view to agreeing an acceptable form of the remedy. The Secretary of State will then consult on the proposed undertakings.

Kassie Smith QC, Alistair Lindsay and Julian Gregory are advising the Secretary of State.

Rob Williams is advising the CMA. Conor McCarthy is also advising the CMA with their investigation.

George Peretz QC and Azeem Suterwalla are advising an interested party Avaaz.

Bratt v. HMRC – formal requirements for VAT repayment claims

The Court of Appeal has decided that VAT repayment claims made under section 80 VATA must refer to quarterly or monthly accounting periods. In Bratt, the taxpayer purported to make a Fleming claim for the whole of 1989 without identifying which of the sums claimed related to particular accounting periods. The Court of Appeal agreed with HMRC that this was not a valid claim since a claim under section 80 was one to recover an amount which was not in fact VAT which had been accounted for to HMRC “for a prescribed accounting period”. Therefore, the claim had to identify the relevant accounting period and the quantum of the claim was the amount of VAT overpaid in that period. This requirement also had the “sound purpose” of allowing HMRC to determine with certainty from the outset whether the whole or any part of the claim was out of time, or whether HMRC needed to go on and investigate it.

Raymond Hill acted for HMRC before the Court of Appeal.

Click here for the full judgment.

Ronit Kreisberger to speak at GCLC conference – The Path Towards Modern EU Competition Policy: A 50+ Year Retrospective

This one day conference is organised by the prestigious Global Competition Law Center (GCLC) of the College of Europe and takes place on 21 June in Brussels.

Ronit Kreisberger will be a panel member discussing “The Rise of Private Competition Law Enforcement: benefits, costs and future prospects” with a presentation on the achievements and challenges of private enforcement in the United Kingdom.

The conference aims to offer an overview of the journey taken by key areas of EU competition policy over the past decades, and to then focus on three topics of particular relevance to today’s application of EU competition law, namely the interactions between competition law and intellectual property, the sharing of public enforcement between the EU and national levels, and the development of private enforcement and associated challenges. The event will conclude with a lecture by Mario Siragusa, followed by a Q&A session revolving around his practice and experience.

The Global Competition Law Centre (GCLC) of the College of Europe aims at promoting cutting-edge research in competition law and economics. Since its inception in January 2004, the GCLC has gained credentials as a high level discussion forum for academics, practitioners, and enforcement officers in the competition field across the world.

For further information click here.

See programme.


Kassie Smith QC appointed to carry out independent review of the Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authority

Kassie Smith QC has been appointed by the States of Jersey to carry out an independent review of the Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authority (JCRA) following the Royal Court judgment in ATF Overseas Holdings Ltd v JCRA.

The review will look into the circumstances leading up to a decision by the JCRA that ATF Fuels had abused a dominant market position. The Royal Court overturned this decision and this independent evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the case will investigate whether the JCRA discharged its legal duties appropriately, and whether there are any significant deficiencies in how Jersey competition law has operated.  Terms of reference were published in a Ministerial Decision on 20 March 2018.

The initial phase of the review will involve a documentary review, followed by meetings with stakeholders to address points of clarification.  It is anticipated that a draft report will be completed in the summer.

This has also been covered by the Bailiwick Express, see here.


Tariq v UK: Lack of Gist in Closed Proceedings Not Unfair

Gulamhussein and Tariq v United Kingdom, application nos. 46538/11 and 3960/12

The recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Tariq v UK has significant implications for the use of closed material procedures in civil proceedings in which article 6 ECHR is engaged.

Mr Tariq was employed by the Home Office as an immigration officer. In 2006, his security clearance was revoked due to his “close association with individuals suspected of involvement in plans to mount terrorist attacks” and he was dismissed from his job. Mr Tariq attempted to challenge the decision in the Employment Tribunal but the Home Office refused to disclose the evidence supporting its revocation of his clearance. A special advocate was appointed to represent him in closed proceedings but Mr Tariq complained that he was not provided with a gist of the accusations contrary to the principle identified by the ECtHR in A and others v United Kingdom (2009) 49 EHRR 29. In Mr Tariq’s appeal in 2011, however, the Supreme Court held that the principle in A and others did not require a gist to be provided in every case in which article 6 ECHR was engaged.

In Tariq, the First Section agreed with the Supreme Court, noting that article 6 ECHR did not mean that it was “invariably essential for someone to know the “gist” of the case against them” (para 84). It also noted that, despite the lack of disclosure, the special advocate had been able to make submissions on Mr Tariq’s behalf and the resort to closed proceedings had not been arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable.

Eric Metcalfe acted for the human rights organisation JUSTICE as third-party intervener, led by John Howell QC.

A copy of the Court’s judgment is available here.

Two wrongs don’t make a right: The Supreme Court’s Decision in R (Gallaher and Somerfield) v Competition and Markets Authority [2018] UKSC 25

The Supreme Court has considered the way in which the OFT conducted its ‘Early Resolution’ settlement negotiations with parties who were subject to its tobacco investigation.  In overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court has held that a mistake made to the benefit of one party in a settlement negotiation is not required to be replicated to the benefit of other similarly situated parties. It so concluded on the basis of traditional principles of public law rationality, rejecting the opportunity to fashion any stand-alone principle relating to mistakes in public law.

Daniel Beard QC and Brendan McGurk acted for the successful appellant, the CMA.

Click here for the full judgment.

Anneli Howard joins former Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke QC MP to argue for the motion “The first casualty of Brexit will be City talent!” in the first of Thomson Reuters Legal Debates for 2018

Anneli Howard is one of the four “heavyweights from law and politics” being brought together on Thursday 7th June, for a contentious debate on Brexit and the future of the City’s talent.  The debaters will argue the motion “The first casualty of Brexit will be City talent!”


Arguing FOR the motion:

Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe and former Lord Chancellor

Anneli Howard, Barrister, Monckton Chambers


Arguing AGAINST the motion:

Michael Howard, Former leader of the Conservative party

Francis Hoar, Barrister, Field Court Chambers


The debate is being chaired by Axel Threlfall, Editor at Large, Reuters.

The Legal Debates are a series of evening events for key partners of Thomson Reuters and key customers of legal solutions.

To register for this event please click here.

House of Commons International Trade Select Committee backs George Peretz QC on improvements to the proposed Trade Remedies Regime

In its report published today on the Government’s proposed legislation setting up a Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) the House of Commons Select Committee has backed a number of recommendations made by George Peretz QC (who gave written and oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry).

The TRA will, along with the Secretary of State for International Trade, administer after Brexit trade defence measures (anti-dumping duty, countervailing measures, and safeguard measures) permitted under WTO rules.

Among other matters, the Committee agreed with George that: –

  • the International Trade Select Committee should have a formal role in appointments as chair and chief executive of the TRA;
  • the TRA should not apply an “economic interest” test but that a decision to refuse trade defence measures on grounds of economic interest, as a political decision, should be reserved to the Secretary of State
  • the Bill should provide on its face that that there was a right of appeal to the Upper Tribunal against decisions to impose and to refuse trade defence remedies, and that such appeals should be “on the merits” rather than just by way of judicial review.

George’s detailed article on the Government’s proposals is here.

GCR AWARDS 2018 – Monckton members amongst Counsel recognised for ‘Litigation of the year – Cartel defence’ award.

Jon Turner QC, Counsel to British Airways and Daniel Beard QC and Thomas Sebastian, barristers to Part 20 claimant airlines, were recognised for their work on the UK Air Cargo Follow-on litigation which won the ‘Litigation of the year – Cartel defence’ award at the recent GCR Awards.

See GCR website for further details.