DEMOCRACY WATCH CALLS FOR END TO TIES BETWEEN CORPORATE LAWYERS AND THE COMPETITION BUREAU
Thursday, May 18, 2000
OTTAWA - Today, at a news conference, Democracy Watch released its report on the federal Competition Bureau, entitled Revolving Doors: The Undue Influence of Corporate Lawyers on the Competition Bureau. The report details how the Attorney General of Canada and the Bureau Commissioner have repeatedly appointed lawyers from a few corporate law firms to assist or represent the Commissioner in competition law cases, instead of using government lawyers. The same lawyers or their law firms have also represented corporations in competition law cases being decided by the Bureau, sometimes at the same time the lawyers were representing the Commissioner.
The systematic use of outside lawyers reveals the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Justice Department's conflict of interest rules for competition law cases. The 21-page report calls on the Attorney General and the Commissioner: (1) to maintain a staff of government lawyers large enough to handle competition cases; (2) to strengthen conflict of interest rules for litigation in competition cases; (3) to only use outside lawyers in special circumstances, and; (4) to ensure that even the appearance of a conflict of interest or bias does not occur when outside lawyers are used.
"Corporate lawyers working for the Competition Bureau is a classic tale of letting the fox into the henhouse" said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. "Clear rules need to be enforced to prevent this ongoing abuse of the public interest."
The report details seven cases of outside corporate lawyers working both for the Competition Bureau and corporations with cases before the Bureau between 1986 and 1999, and raises serious questions concerning the conflicts of interest or bias that have resulted in these cases. The cases deal with competition issues concerning the following corporations, among others: Imperial Oil, Texaco Canada, Nutrasweet, Westinghouse Canada, Laidlaw Waste Systems, Loblaw and Provigo.
Democracy Watch has submitted its report as a petition to the Attorney General of Canada, and will consider launching a court case if the Attorney General does not take corrective action.
Today, Democracy Watch appeared before and filed its report with the House of Commons Industry Committee, which has just concluded hearings on the Competition Bureau. Democracy Watch will also be participating in the consultation meetings on the operations of the Competition Bureau that the Bureau has hired the Public Policy Forum to conduct through the summer.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Tel: (613) 241-5179