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‘A matter of efficiency’: BAT drops Linklaters from bribery probe

British American Tobacco (BAT) has picked Slaughter and May as its sole legal provider for its investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption, removing Linklaters from the mandate.

A BAT spokesperson said: ‘We have been working with Slaughter and May for some time on this matter, alongside Linklaters. We have decided as a matter of efficiency to consolidate the work in one firm, Slaughter and May.’

‘We continue to have a strong working relationship with Linklaters in a number of areas,’ she added.

Although immediately after the bribery accusations were launched in December 2015 BAT had initially turned to media boutique Harbottle & Lewis to ‘deal with the matter’, in February this year the company appointed Linklaters as it announced a full investigation over the allegations made against its activities in Africa which emerged from a BBC Panorama. US officials have also since called for a further investigation into claims that BAT paid to cover up scandals such as the environmental damage caused by a warehouse fire in Uganda.

The tobacco firm historically instructs Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF). Examples include its challenge of the UK government’s plans to bring in plain cigarette packaging, after parliament approved the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 and the acquisition of Europe’s largest eCigarette CHIC Group in a bid to enter the e-cigarette market in September 2015. In addition, in October this year BAT instructed HSF again on its offer to acquire the remaining 57.8 % stake in Reynolds American for $47bn.

In June, BAT appointed Irish lawyer Ronan Barry as its new legal chief for Europe to succeed Benoit Belhomme, following an internal shake-up of the company’s legal division.