Legal Business

In-house: BP starts panel review under new general counsel

In-house: BP starts panel review under new general counsel

BP has commenced a review of its panel of legal advisers, marking the oil giant’s first revamp since 2014. The decision to renovate the legal panel comes after the promotion of Eric Nitcher to general counsel (GC) in January this year.

Nitcher, who previously acted as GC of BP America, replaced former GC Rupert Bondy who left to join FTSE 100 company Reckitt Benckiser.

BP’s current roster of legal advisers comprises Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright, CMS Cameron McKenna, Ashurst, Simmons & Simmons, Pinsent Masons, Olswang and Addleshaw Goddard. This roster is due to expire in July 2017.

In May 2016, it was revealed BP will require external advisers to pitch for instructions worth over $1m in legal fees. The decision, an attempt to slash BP’s legal fees, means that firms must pitch against each other to secure work.

Former GC Bondy favoured alternative tender methods, selecting the current line-up of firms by holding a reverse auction during 2014’s panel review. Fieldfisher was the only firm to lose out after 2014’s review.

Rival oil major Shell also ran a reverse auction for its legal panel review in 2016, in addition to implementing a new rule that all legal matters must be priced using alternative fee arrangements (AFA) in December.

Other ongoing panel reviews include Sainsbury’s, which launched a review earlier this year to form a roster which will also cover its recent Home Retail Group acquisition. In addition, firms are gearing up to pitch for Lloyds’ commercial banking panel, which is due to start shortly and is expected to include about 80 – 100 firms.

BP declined to comment.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

In-house: BP promotes veteran Nitcher to group GC as Bondy exits

In-house: BP promotes veteran Nitcher to group GC as Bondy exits

BP has appointed Eric Nitcher as group general counsel, effective from 1 January. The 26-year-veteran of the oil giant replaces former legal head Rupert Bondy, who quit to join FTSE 100 company Reckitt Benckiser at the end of last year.

The internal appointment will see Nitcher oversee an in-house team of around 320 lawyers in BP’s London office.

Nitcher has a deep legal history with BP, having previously acted as group general counsel of BP America and senior associate general counsel (AGC) for disputes and regulatory matters.

Performing a key role in settling the Deepwater Horizon government claim, relating to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Nitcher’s pedigree with BP has been displayed over a range of disputes.

Notably, Nitcher was instrumental in forming the TNK-BP alliance in 2003. The joint venture with Russian oil producer TNK was a major success, becoming Russia’s third-largest oil producer and among the ten largest private oil companies in the world.

Nitcher’s legal background in the US is well-established. Applying his expertise to numerous challenging issues and acting as special counsel and chief of staff to BP America’s chairman and president, as well as AGC for BP’s Lower 48 and Southern Cone businesses.

Outgoing GC Bondy had been associated with the oil giant since 2008 and had an eventful tenure. He oversaw BP’s UK panel reviews in 2011 and 2014, the latter of which saw Linklaters, Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright, CMS Cameron McKenna, Pinsent Masons and Olswang retain their positions.

Addleshaw Goddard, Simmons & Simmons and Ashurst were all newcomers.

The next panel review is due to take place this year.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Search for BP legal head begins as Bondy departs for Reckitt Benckiser

Search for BP legal head begins as Bondy departs for Reckitt Benckiser

BP’s group general counsel (GC) Rupert Bondy, one of the most high-profile in-house leaders, is to step down from his role by the end of the year to head up Reckitt Benckiser (RB)’s global legal team as senior vice president (SVP), GC and company secretary.

Last month BP announced internally that Bondy would step down at the end of 2016 to pursue another opportunity, with no current replacement for the role.

Legal Business

High-profile BP general counsel Bondy to move to Reckitt Benckiser

High-profile BP general counsel Bondy to move to Reckitt Benckiser

BP’s group general counsel (GC) Rupert Bondy, one of the most high-profile in-house leaders in the community, is to step down from his role by the end of the year to join Reckitt Benckiser, Legal Business can reveal.

A spokesperson confirmed BP had announced internally that Bondy (pictured) will step down at the end of 2016 to pursue another opportunity. Reckitt Benckiser has confirmed he will join as senior vice-president, general counsel and company secretary.

Bondy, who joined BP as group GC and a member of the executive team in 2008, oversaw the company’s risk management strategy following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, effectively steering its emergency response from the beginning of the crisis through to the eventual financial settlement.

Responsible for legal and compliance matters across the BP group, Bondy started his career at US law firm Morrison & Forester, before working at Lovells and joining (then) SmithKline Beecham as senior counsel for M&A and other corporate matters. He was appointed senior vice president and GC of GlaxoSmithKline in 2001.

Earlier this year Legal Business revealed that BP had informed its current external advisers that they would now be required to pitch for instructions worth over $1m in legal fees, in a bid to curb costs. In a rule overseen by Bondy, go-to law firms will no longer be instructed for high-value instructions but must pitch against each other for the work. This comes on top of panel fee arrangements, encouraging law firms to drop their fees further to actually win work once on the legal panel.

The order came as firms prepare to compete for coveted positions on BP’s upcoming UK panel review in 2017. Currently, the list comprises Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright, CMS Cameron McKenna, Ashurst, Simmons & Simmons, Pinsent Masons, Olswang and Addleshaw Goddard.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BP announces specialist panel with Fieldfisher returning to the fold

BP announces specialist panel with Fieldfisher returning to the fold

BP has selected nine firms to provide niche legal services as part of its wider panel. Firms appointed are Baker & McKenzie, Fieldfisher, Hill Dickinson, Holman Fenwick Willan, Reed Smith, Stevens & Bolton, Sullivan & Cromwell, Watson Farley & Williams and arbitration boutique Three Crowns.

The agreement, which will last until 2017, starts with immediate effect and will cover BP’s specialist activity in the UK.

BP unveiled its 2014 core panel for UK-instructed legal work earlier this month which saw firms like Ashurst, Simmons & Simmons and Addleshaw Goddard all added to the oil major’s roster.

While Fieldfisher was the only firm to lose its place on the revamped panel, it now sits on the panel that provides niche advice.

The panel win is a significant coup for recently launched arbitration boutique Three Crowns, set up by heavyweight arbitrators including Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer’s Constantine Partasides, former arbitration co-chair Jan Paulsson and former Covington & Burling’s London-based international arbitration co-chair Gaetan Verhoosel earlier this year. The new firm will hit the ground running with over 30 cases from BP.

Three Crowns founding partner Constantine Partasides QC said: ‘We at 3C are particularly proud to be given the opportunity to deepen our relationship with BP. Our appointment confirms our belief that sophisticated users of legal services see the benefit of a niche, focussed, global arbitration offering for the most complex international disputes.’

Jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BP brings in reverse auction as it pushes ahead with panel review

BP brings in reverse auction as it  pushes ahead with panel review

Energy giant seeks increased transparency in bidding process with new online element

BP has introduced a reverse auction into its latest panel tender process, an announcement which came in the same week the energy giant lost an appeal to restrict access to its $20bn compensation fund for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The FTSE 100 company confirmed on 22 May that it has issued invites to existing and potential panel member firms, and revamped the process with the introduction of an online reverse auction element to make the bidding process more transparent, quicker and efficient.

Legal Business

BP brings in reverse auction as it pushes ahead with panel review

BP brings in reverse auction as it pushes ahead with panel review

BP has introduced a reverse auction into its latest panel tender process, an announcement which comes in the same week as the energy giant lost an appeal to restrict access to its $20bn compensation fund for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The FTSE 100 company confirmed this morning (22 May) that it has issued invites to existing and potential panel member firms, and revamped the process with the introduction of an online reverse auction element to make the bidding process more transparent, quicker and efficient. 

The current panel includes Magic Circle firms Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, as well as Norton Rose Fulbright, Olswang, Herbert Smith Freehills, Field Fisher Waterhouse, CMS Cameron McKenna and Pinsent Masons.

Managing counsel Andrew Stewart, who is leading the UK panel process, said: ‘We’re reviewing our UK core panel of eight firms and would expect some changes there based both on rates and previous performance.

‘We would expect to see some new participants for our UK-instructed legal work, and it is possible that there may be some departures.’

While criteria for the 2014 panel is set to include ‘capability’ and ‘quality of legal service’, the FTSE 100 company is also placing a strong emphasis on cost efficiency and competitive rates.

Group general counsel Rupert Bondy (pictured), who steered the 2011 panel overhaul, added: ‘Financial discipline is a key part of BP’s strategy – that applies to our legal spend as much as project investments.’

A process is also underway to ‘realign rates’ for BP’s US legal panel during 2014.

The review is expected to be completed towards the middle of 2014.

BP last year revealed that a $20bn trust set up to satisfy claims for damages from the Deepwater Horizon spill had nearly all been paid out, and on Monday (20 May) lost an appeal in its US court battle to ensure that claimants against the fund show adequate causation.

The company is now seeking review by the US Supreme Court to prevent billions of dollars of additional liabilities for ‘losses with no apparent connection to the disaster.’

Yesterday (21 May) it said: ‘No company would agree to pay for losses that it did not cause, and BP certainly did not when it entered into this settlement. BP will continue to fight to return the settlement to its original, explicit, and lawful purpose – the compensation of claimants who suffered actual losses due to the spill.’

Recently it emerged that in 2010 BP paid external legal fees of $1bn in respect of the disaster.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk