Liam Colley
Office:
6 New Street Square
EC4A 3BF
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7098 7570
Fax:
+44 20 7098 7401

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Competition

Liam is global head of economics consulting at AlixPartners, and co-leads the firm’s investigations, disputes and risk practice in EMEA. He has over 23 years’ experience in economics consulting, specialising in competition, litigation, regulation and strategy. Liam was described in Global Competition Review’s Economics 20 as having “earned an excellent reputation among his peers and clients”, and in WWL as “praised for the unassailable quality of his work” and for “his impressive testimony in competition cases”.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PRACTISING AS A COMPETITION ECONOMIST?

It’s very rewarding – and that’s because it’s testing. You have to marry the theory with the reality of what’s going on in the market. And you must check your assumptions, and possible biases, to ensure you’re properly interpreting the evidence and not just fitting the facts to the theory. It’s very diverse and constantly changing – that’s very intellectually stimulating. You get to experience a wide range of sectors and confront diverse views on what good competition looks like. The digital economy is throwing up new challenges, although that is sometimes overplayed. More broadly, the role of markets and how they function is also centre stage in the political economy. It’s certainly topical and I can talk about my work with my kids – hopefully I don’t bore them too much!

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?

Avoiding temptations to blow my own trumpet? 

But seriously, building the practice here has been a lot of fun and there will always be cases you look back on with a degree of pride. Of course, all economists know that correlation doesn’t mean causality and the true of causes of success may be varied and obscure. Also, even with the increased amount of expert witness work, consulting is always a team game.  

HOW DOES ALIXPARTNERS KEEP A COMPETITIVE EDGE IN THE MARKET? 

Our philosophy for economics consulting is that both the economics skills and the consulting skills really count. So we work hard on also developing the consulting skills to ensure we are as professional, efficient and user-friendly as possible and maximise the impact of the economic analysis on our client’s matters. 

Distinctively, our economics practice sits within a traditional commercial litigation practice. This means we are very well positioned to do follow-on damages cases as we work hand-in-glove with complementary skillsets like forensic accountants and litigation data analytics experts.

Also, we routinely leverage the deep industry and operational expertise of our consulting colleagues into our antitrust projects. AlixPartners is a global professional consulting firm renowned for helping clients on their most urgent high-impact issues – this involves advising at the board level and often taking interim board positions. It’s enormously helpful to be able to tap into that level of industry insight and practical experience. This has served us very well for example in the tidal wave of follow-on work in the automotive sector where we have been instructed on dozens of matters by many leading car manufacturers. Our auto colleagues bring deep experience of the full supply chain, whereas our clients’ knowledge is obviously focused on their level of the chain. 

IN WHAT WAYS HAS THE USE OF LITIGATION FUNDING EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?

Litigation funding has evolved in several important ways over the past few years, to help a broader range of parties, address a wider range of risks and to be deployed at new stages in the litigation process. Funding has become increasingly popular globally, as new legal markets have emerged, including notably Hong Kong and Singapore. Claimant-side single case funding remains but products offering portfolio finance for corporates and law firms have also emerged. Law firms have begun to employ funding to compete and expand, allowing them to assume previously untenable levels of risk, taken on more cases and command higher returns upon success. On the corporate side, CFOs increasingly treat funding as an innovative way to improve profitability and hedge risk, through offloading entire portfolios of claims. Defence-side funding is an interesting, if less prevalent, complementary development. Another interesting evolution relates to the time at which funding is sought. For example, clients now use funding to monetise legal assets immediately after judgment, rather than facing lengthy delays to receiving settlement funds.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES PRESENTED TO YOUR PRACTICE BY SECTORS THAT RELY ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES, AND HOW IS YOUR PRACTICE ADAPTING?

Clearly there is a need to keep on top of the sector-specific issues, and we have a lot of in-house digital sector experience to draw on. The volume and complexity of data is not a particular challenge, and all this sits comfortably within the bounds of the analytic techniques and firepower we are used to marshalling, for example on very complex financial services cases such as FX, Libor and CDS.

We also do not think that the fundamental antitrust economics differ greatly for these sectors. The economics of network effects, two-sided markets, first mover advantages, etc, are well known – as are the challenges of understanding the interplay between competition and innovation for consumer welfare, although arguably the stakes are higher for markets characterised by digital platforms. 

WHICH QUALITIES DOES A COMPETITION ECONOMIST NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL?

To be a successful competition economics consultant requires a range of attributes. On the technical side, it’s very important to not only be on top of the theory and to apply it correctly, but also to be careful with how you interpret evidence – to be rigorous and have an open mind. On the delivery side, it takes work to translate complex stuff into plain English, to interact well with a range of individuals, and to work effectively as part of a team – however large or small your role on the team is. Ultimately, consulting is a people business and people skills are paramount.

A very welcome development in my view is the growth of competition litigation and the increased exposure of economics experts and evidence to the court. For the profession, the requirement to be independent is very healthy for addressing the impression that economics is more art than science. For experts, this means you have to develop your court presence, with a premium on clarity of expression, and ability to think on your feet. 

ARE THERE ANY GOALS YOU WOULD LIKE TO ACHIEVE IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY?

Lots – and plans are afoot. One I can talk about is that I’d like to testify in the US at some point. 

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Competition: Economists

Liam is global head of economics consulting at AlixPartners, and co-leads the firm’s investigations, disputes and risk practice in EMEA. He has over 23 years' experience in economics consulting, specialising in competition, litigation, regulation and strategy. Liam was described in Global Competition Review's Economics 20 as having "earned an excellent reputation among his peers and clients", and in Who’s Who Legal as "praised for the unassailable quality of his work" and for “his impressive testimony in competition cases”.

Liam has represented numerous clients before the European Commission and national competition authorities, regulators and courts on the full range of competition issues in many industries, in particular financial services, telecoms, media, technology and automotive.

Liam has acted as expert economist before the UK High Court and the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on many antitrust damages matters including Graiseley Properties Ltd & Ors v Barclays Bank plc (the Libor ‘test case’); NHS & Ors v Reckitt Benckiser; WM Newson & Ors v IMI plc and Boliden AB; Peugeot Citroen Automobiles UK Ltd & Ors v Pilkington Group Ltd & Ors; Peugeot SA & Ors v NSK & Ors; and Hilding Anders International AB & Ors v Vita Cellular Foams (UK) Ltd & Ors. He has also acted on successful regulatory appeals at the CAT for BSkyB in BSkyB & Ors v Ofcom (pay-TV appeal) and for Lloyds Banking Group in Barclays Bank plc & Ors v Competition Commission

Liam has wide experience estimating damages in both a competition and a commercial litigation context (including class action) and has worked on a significant number of cartel matters including polyurethane foam, air cargo, automotive bearings, roll-on roll-off car carriers, automotive lighting, HVAC, starters and alternators, copper tubes, construction, auto-glass, recruitment, LCD and flat glass.

Liam has advised clients on a wide range of market inquiries including retail banking, payment protection insurance, motor insurance, audit, new cars and buses. He has acted in various abuse of dominance cases including in stand-alone and follow-on actions, and has worked on a significant number of merger cases at both the national and EC level.

Liam holds an MSc in economics (with distinction) from Birkbeck College London, an MA in EC competition law (with merit) from King's College London, and a BA in economics from the University of Sussex. Liam is an active member of the Competition Law Forum of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and he has written and spoken widely on competition and litigation matters.

WWL says: Liam Colley is a well-regarded expert on follow-on damages as well as an experienced testifying expert with a wide-ranging practice.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Competition which can be purchased from our Shop.

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