💡 Bulb keeps on shining

In today’s email:

  • Octopus still owns Bulb

  • AI makes you a (bad) comedian

  • Otters want to shake your hand

  • Google’s getting sued for big money

  • Facebook can’t be bothered to read the new EU laws

If you take just one thing from this email…

Some companies are just ‘too big to fail’. This means they’re so important that a government will rescue them to stop them going bankrupt.

This applies to things like banks and energy companies where their failure could have a damaging impact on the country.

While it’s a good thing for customers of those companies, it can leave other companies in that industry that didn’t fail (and didn’t need rescuing) feeling annoyed.

EDITOR'S RAMBLE 🗣

I read an article about a gaming company called NetDragon Websoft that replaced its CEO with a new hire called Tang Yu.

Tang Yu’s job role was like any CEO - she reviewed the company’s performance, assessed the risks it faced and made strategic decisions.

But unlike any other CEO in the world, Tang Yu worked 24/7, didn’t sleep, and was paid £0 salary.

That’s because Tang Yu was an AI-powered robot!

I see articles about how AI could replace lawyers - at least in the routine, boring tasks they do.

But people say it could never replace the judgement and decision-making of an actual lawyer - these are things that AI can not do!

Well… at least not yet.

- Idin

FEATURED REPORT 📰

💡 Bulb keeps on shining

What’s going on here?

A bunch of UK energy suppliers were unhappy with the way the government handled the sale of Bulb (an energy company). They took the issue to court but the court ruled against them. Now the sale of Bulb will proceed as planned.

Why were energy suppliers unhappy with the Bulb sale?

Bulb was a renewable energy company that suddenly got into financial trouble in 2021. This is mainly because the price of natural gas went up, and so did the company’s costs, meaning it ran out of cash.

But, as it was the energy provider for 1.6m customers (including me), the government couldn’t just let it fail - it was too important.

Bulb was placed in ‘special administration’ in November 2021 (meaning Ofgem - the country’s energy regulator - ran it while they figured out what to do with it). Almost a year later, Octopus Energy announced it had reached a deal to buy the firm. The UK government handled the sale process to Octopus and this is what’s caused the issue - other energy suppliers, including British Gas, Eon and Scottish Power, were unhappy with how it was handled.

What was their issue with the handling of the sale?

They argued that:

  • 🔍 the sale wasn’t transparent and the bidders weren’t treated equally.

  • 💰 the government provided Octopus loads of funding to help with the deal (using billions of pounds of taxpayer money).

  • 🚫 British Gas was not given an opportunity to make a more competitive offer.

  • 🤐 key information about the sale process was not disclosed to all bidders.

How did the court rule on these arguments?

The High Court dismissed the challenge and said the bidding process was "open, non-discriminatory and competitive”.

Mr Justice Foxton called the energy companies' case "not... reasonably arguable".

Lawyers for the government had said the claims against it were "without merit" and companies were aware of some of the things they alleged were kept from them (e.g. they all knew they could seek government financial support).

What did Octopus say?

Octopus clapped back at the haters.

They said the case was a "desperate attempt" by its rivals to "defend their waning market positions against a more efficient and customer-focused rival".

So, it’s over now?

Michael Lewis, chief executive of Eon, said they are looking at potentially appealing. Scottish Power have indicated they probably won’t appeal.

Why should law firms care?

This ruling showed us how the High Court tests the way a transaction is handled against a variety of public law challenges.

It gives more clarity on what the ‘right’ way to act is when dealing with the government in a transaction like this. This is important for lawyers to know when advising clients to ensure their potentially winning bid doesn’t get challenged either.

In this specific case, CMS advised Octopus. Bulb’s administrators were advised by Linklaters. The challenger energy companies were represented by Towerhouse and Shearman & Sterling, Allen & Overy and Pinsent Masons. The UK government was represented by Hogan Lovells.

… looks like a lot of different commercial law firms were involved in this one!

A BIT OF FUN 😄

🛏️ Better spot than the library

IN OTHER NEWS 🗞

  • 💻️ Google is facing a £3.4bn lawsuit: The tech company is being accused of inflating the price of ads on its platform so advertisers got worse results and fewer clicks. This could end up being a huge class action case (which is rare in the UK).

  • 🛡️ The world’s biggest security firm has paused its initial public offering: Allied Universal, an American company (and apparently the world’s biggest provider of security guards) is delaying its IPO because of difficulties in hiring and general economic uncertainty. Headlines like this are a bad sign for law firms who do ‘public’ corporate work.

  • 🇪🇺 Meta might banning political ads entirely in Europe: Facebook’s parent company will soon have to follow the new and super complicated rules being introduced in Europe to regulate how political ads will work. The rules are so complicated, and Meta already makes so much money from non-political ads, that it’s thinking of just avoiding the issue by banning political ads altogether.

AROUND THE WEB 🌐

STUFF THAT MIGHT HELP YOU 👌

  • 👥 Community for aspiring lawyers: If you're struggling with motivation for law firm applications, check out FlowHuddle - a supportive online community, hosting remote co-working sessions, expert office hours and in-person meet-ups.

  • 📕Commercial awareness journal: Check out this journal that we've created alongside the team from The Lawyer Spot. It gives your a simple three-step structure to improve your commercial awareness in a high-quality physical notebook.

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