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Regulatory work: Cadwalader and Cleary face off over Ryanair/Aer Lingus, while Links and HSF advise on PPI compensation pot

In a move being watched with interest by M&A lawyers and competition experts throughout Europe, the Competition Commission (CC) has today (28 August) dealt another blow to Ryanair’s long-held ambitions to buy Aer Lingus by ordering the airline to sell the majority of its 30% stake held in its rival, ruling that the minority stake could allow it to materially influence Aer Lingus in a way that may be anti-competitive.

However, Ryanair has wasted no time in saying it will appeal against the decision, described by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary to the BBC as ‘bizarre and manifestly wrong’. This will meaning more work for Ryanair’s seasoned advisors, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, led by competition partner Nicholas Levy.

Alec Burnside, managing partner of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s Brussels office, and counsel to Aer Lingus, said: ‘Ryanair’s 29.82% shareholding has been used as a Trojan horse against Aer Lingus for the last seven years since the original 2006 bid. It has been the platform for Ryanair’s failed rebids for Aer Lingus in 2008 and 2012. The CC has now found that those rebids have harmed competition between the two rivals.’

Meanwhile, the mis-selling by high-street banks of payment protection insurance has fed the financial regulation and disputes teams of Linklaters and Herbert Smith Freehills for some time and the latest development has seen the firms instructed to advise Card Protection Plan (CPP) and 13 of Britain’s largest banks and credit card issuers on the creation of £1.3bn compensation agreement with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Seven million customers were mis-sold around 23 million policies in total, covering card and identity protection and may now receive a full refund under a £1.3bn compensation agreement.

Herbert Smith advised CPP, led by dispute resolution partner Nik Kiri, finance partner Kevin Pullen and finance of counsel Debbie Standring. The firm has represented CPP on a range of corporate, finance, regulatory and restructuring matters since May 2012.

Linklaters represented the financial institutions that partnered with CPP, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Nationwide Building Society, MBNA, Morgan Stanley Bank International, Capital One and Tesco Personal Finance.

Linklaters’ senior partner Robert Elliott led the team alongside financial regulation partner Carl Fernandes, banking partner Bruce Bell and of Counsel Nick Le Masurier.

The FCA was advised by its in-house legal team, with Ernst & Young as the key scheme administrators led by head of global restructuring Alan Bloom and partner Kevin Gill.

HSF’s Mulley said: ‘We have been delighted to assist CPP across a range of practice areas as it has navigated through some very challenging issues and transactions over the last 15 months and are particularly pleased to have been able to help achieve this latest milestone on the path to rebuilding the group.’

The FCA’s chief executive Martin Wheatley added: ‘We believe this will be a good outcome for customers who may have been mis-sold the card and identity protection policies. Subject to CPP’s customers approving the scheme, these policyholders will be able to claim a full refund of premiums with interest.’