Cleary Gottlieb Counsel in European Legal Privilege Decision

September 17, 2007

On September 17, the European Court of First Instance handed down judgment in AKZO Nobel, a case concerning the scope of legal privilege in the context of European Union antitrust law. Cleary Gottlieb represented the European Company Lawyers’ Association (ECLA) in the matter.

The AKZO judgment confirmed that communications between a company and its in-house counsel do not fall under the protection of European legal professional privilege, upholding the 20-year old AM&S judgment that withheld privilege for those communications, even if in-house counsel is admitted to a legal bar or a law society. This question will continue to be controversial. The judgment also improved the rules for antitrust dawn raids and recognized privilege for internal compliance audit documents prepared for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.