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In-house counsel in Europe and the U.S. are fuming after a top European court ruled that full attorney-client privilege does not apply to European in-house lawyers in antitrust investigations, according to Bloomberg and the U.K. publication Legal Week.

The case at issue concerned a 2003 investigation by the European Commission, the European Union’s antitrust authority, into alleged anti-competitive behavior at the U.K. offices of the Dutch chemicals company Akzo Nobel. Investigators raided the company’s offices in Manchester and seized lots of documents, including communications from Akzo’s in-house legal team the company claimed should be protected by attorney-client privilege, according to Bloomberg, Legal Week and this useful overview of the case from the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Corporate Counsel. The commission disagreed, saying the privilege did not apply to the in-house lawyers, since they were Akzo employees and thus part of the larger company rather than independent counsel.

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