Fieldfisher persuades High Court to grant 'leave to act' in rare director disqualification dispute | Fieldfisher
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Press Release

Fieldfisher persuades High Court to grant 'leave to act' in rare director disqualification dispute



United Kingdom

A specialist disputes and regulatory team from Fieldfisher's Birmingham and London offices successfully argued against the CMA that disqualified Cantillon director Paul Cluskey should be allowed to continue as a director of one of the UK's leading demolition contractors.

European law firm Fieldfisher has secured a notable victory for leading UK demolition contractor Cantillon Limited and its director Paul Cluskey in a rare High Court decision.

The team comprising dispute resolution and regulatory specialists from Fieldfisher's Birmingham and London offices successfully applied to the High Court for Mr Cluskey to be granted permission to remain as a director of Cantillon, notwithstanding his recent disqualification under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (CDDA).

Cantillon was one of 10 companies found to have infringed competition law following a four-year investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into cover-bidding in the demolition sector.  

The conduct was industry-wide, and Cantillon was one of eight parties to admit its role in the behaviour and cooperated with the CMA throughout its investigation.

In February 2023, Mr Cluskey accepted voluntary disqualification as a statutory director of Cantillon for a period of four and a half years for his involvement in the infringement. 

Mr Cluskey subsequently filed an application for leave to act prior to the disqualification taking effect, requesting permission from the court under section 17 CDDA to both continue acting as a director of Cantillon – a request opposed by the CMA.

The application was determined by the High Court in Mr Cluskey's favour on 25 May 2023. Judge Burton found that the package of competition compliance measures offered by Cantillon, and on which Fieldfisher advised, were comprehensive, and in her view provided potentially industry-leading competition compliance standards.  

Among other things, Cantillon committed to implementing a robust competition law compliance training programme for key personnel, the appointment to the board of new executive directors, a new non-executive director to supervise competition law compliance and the introduction of a formal tender evaluation panel.

This decision was a major commercial result for Cantillon and Mr Cluskey, who has worked with the company's management over the past four years to build awareness of the importance of competition law compliance, to instil a culture of compliance across the organisation and to put in place robust systems and measures to prevent future breaches of competition law. 

It is a notable legal judgment, being one of only a small handful of cases involving applications for leave to act arising out of competition law infringements, and is understood to be only the second one to succeed in the face of opposition from the CMA.

The application team was led by Birmingham Dispute Resolution Partner Stephen May, London Regulatory Partner Jessica Gardner and Associate Jonathan Peters.

Commenting on the decision, Fieldfisher Dispute Resolution Partner Stephen May said:

"This is a genuinely important result for Mr Cluskey and Cantillon and has considerable significance in the field of competition related director disqualifications in general. Both Mr Cluskey and the company have accepted responsibility for their previous conduct, cooperated fully with the CMA investigation and have implemented stringent measures to prevent future anti-competitive behaviour.

"This decision outlines a rare but achievable route to redemption for businesses who may have been caught up in breaches of UK competition law, encouraging greater transparency and cooperation with the authorities.

"The outcome of this case is also testament to Fieldfisher's expertise in handling disputes with regulators to achieve just and fair outcomes that contribute positively to the application of regulatory penalties in future."

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