The Difficult Relationship Between Restraints to the Attorney-Client Privilege and Compliance with the Law by Companies – Commentary on the Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Akzo Nobel Chemicals and others vs. Commission case of 14th September, 2010 (case C-550/07)

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In his ruling of 14th September, 2010, in the Akzo Nobel Chemicals and others vs. Commission case, the Court of Justice of the European Union confirms that communications between a company and an in-house counsel are not covered by the confidentiality of communications between clients and lawyers (as he also stated 28 years ago in the AM & Europe vs. Commission case). In this case the problem is about conflicts generated over the access to certain documents by the European Commission, as part of an investigation in the area of competition law. The ECJ clarifies once again the scope and the limits of confidentiality of communications with lawyers, concluding that it may be only exercised with outside counsels. The problems caused by these issues have their origin in the absence of a rule that expressly regulates the protection of the documents or information prepared by a lawyer, in the context of defending the interests of the client. This legal professional privilege is recognised as a fundamental right and the present article aims to clarify the scope of that privilege, based on the last judgment of the ECJ related to this topic.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • This is a new journal dedicated to the development of European Criminal Law and the co-operation in criminal matters within the European Union. In these areas the Lisbon Treaty has supposedly brought about the most important changes and also the greatest challenges for the future. It is the journal's ambition to provide a primary forum for comprehensive discussion and critical analysis of all questions arising in relation to European Criminal Law. It will include articles and relevant material on topics such as:

    ‧The harmonisation of national criminal law in consideration of European legal instruments,

    ‧The implementation of the principle of mutual recognition in the area of cooperation in criminal matters and the development towards the creation of a European Public Prosecutor

    ‧The emergence of a balanced European Criminal Policy based on fundamental rights, freedom and democracy with particular reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights.

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