On 14 September 2010, the Court of Justice of the European Union gave its ruling in Case C-550/07P Akzo Nobel Chemicals Ltd. and Akcros Chemicals Ltd. v Commission, confirming that the protection of legal professional privilege (LPP) does not extend under EU law to advice given by in-house lawyers. Accordingly it is now settled law that advice from and communications with in-house lawyers can be seized by the European Commission.

The Akzo judgment leaves unresolved a number of questions relating to the operation of LPP rules under EU law including questions of acute importance to U.S. companies, such as the treatment of communications emanating from U.S. lawyers. Suyong Kim, a partner in our London office, and Matthew Levitt, a partner in our Brussels office, in a recent article published by the BNA Antitrust & Trade Regulation Report, review the evolving EU case law on LPP to date and conclude that the circumscribed approach to LPP in the European Union gives rise to serious legal and practical difficulties for U.S. and multinational companies who also have operations within the European Union in obtaining confidential legal advice and communicating that advice within their business.