Kelley McKinnon, the head of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP's litigation practice, is taking a leave of absence to head up the mergers branch of the Competition Bureau.
Ms. McKinnon, a former deputy director of enforcement and chief litigation counsel for the Ontario Securities Commission, is no stranger to big files, popping up on prominent cases like the national securities regulator Supreme Court reference in recent years.
She takes over from Paul Collins, who returned to Stikeman Elliott LLP recently after a similar stint at the Competition Bureau. The post at the helm of the bureau's merger branch, under Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken, is a key one.
The branch is responsible for reviewing major corporate deals that could pose a threat to competition, and the bureau – granted new powers in 2009 to delay or block deals – has shown a new assertiveness in this area. Not surprisingly, this has attracted criticism from some in the competition bar, such as a recent move to publish all reviewed transactions to improve the bureau's transparency.
It will now be Ms. McKinnon's role to recommend to the commissioner which mergers need either to be blocked or altered to protect competition, making her a key figure as Bay Street attempts to steer big deals through the bureau.
"At the OSC, Kelley gained significant knowledge and insight into public regulation and compliance," Ms. Aitken was quoted as saying in a press release. "Kelley brings with her the skills necessary to deal effectively with diverse stakeholders and regulators, both in Canada and abroad."
A statement from the bureau released Wednesday also says the "clear conflict of interest guidelines" will be followed for the duration of Ms. McKinnon's appointment. In Mr. Collins's case, he was not allowed to be involved in any files involving Stikeman Elliott clients.
Her appointment begins Aug. 7.