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Co-op Group kicks off panel review as former Dixons Carphone GC takes top legal role

The Co-operative Group has begun reviewing its corporate and commercial legal panels, as well as its property law and litigation advisers, as the former Dixons Carphone group general counsel (GC) Helen Grantham replaced Alistair Asher in the group’s top legal role.

Grantham took up the new GC role last week, having joined the British consumer member-owned group as interim group secretary in January 2016. Asher will continue in a new role as Co-op director of special projects for the business.

The new panels are expected to be in place by January 2018 and will be led by Helen Lowe, the group’s head of in-house legal operations and Peter Horsfall, head of legal and digital.

Addleshaw Goddard, TLT, Pinsent Masons and the group’s primary adviser Allen & Overy (A&O) are currently the main corporate and commercial advisers for Co-op, while Pinsents, Brodies, Weightmans, Hill Dickinson and Southern English firm Paris Smith are on the existing property panel.

Asher, who was previously a partner at A&O, first got involved with the Co-op in spring 2013, when he was drafted in to help with the bank’s £1.5bn capital shortfall.

Most of Asher’s role at the Co-op revolved around saving the bank from collapse and working on a new strategy for the organisation going forward.

As Legal Business previously reported, Asher and head of legal Jim Tully lead an assessment into the British consumer group’s panel firms as the group’s legal team underwent a reorganisation.

Last year it was reported that the Co-op Bank’s legal risk expenditure almost doubled in 2015, mostly to address issues caused by the mis-selling of payment protection insurance.

The group’s banking arm’s conduct and legal risk costs shot up 91% from £101.2m in 2014 to £193.7m over the last year, which according to the bank, related to ‘legacy issues’.

The Co-operative Group in involved in sectors from food and electrical retail, legal, financial and insurance services, to funeralcare, spread across 4,200 locations.

As the largest consumer co-operative in the UK, it is owned by in excess of 4 million members.