U.K. Said to Name Andrew Tyrie Chairman of Competition Watchdog

(Bloomberg) -- Andrew Tyrie, one of the most senior Conservative lawmakers until quitting Parliament last year, is to be named chairman of the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority, taking over as the agency prepares for increased powers after Brexit, a person familiar with the matter said.

The appointment of the 61-year-old will be announced Wednesday by Business Secretary Greg Clark. Tyrie was chairman of Parliament’s Treasury Committee and represented Chichester in southern England before leaving office. He campaigned against leaving the European Union during the referendum, and voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan last year.

The CMA will take over some of the roles now done by European Commission antitrust regulators, and has gotten increased funding to help prepare for next year’s exit from the bloc. As head of the cross-party panel that scrutinizes the U.K. Treasury and financial regulators, Tyrie made a name for himself by criticizing bankers following the 2008 crisis and Libor-rigging scandal, and for often leading testy exchanges with finance ministry and central bank officials at committee hearings.

Tyrie replaces David Currie, who said in September he would step down to allow the next chairman to take over with time to prepare for an expected surge in workload with the March 2019 departure from the EU. Tyrie’s appointment was reported earlier by Sky News.

Merger Role

The CMA is looking at mergers including the battle between Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. and Comcast Corp. over Sky Plc, the big European pay-TV service. EU regulators approved 21st Century Fox’s bid last April, but U.K. regulators continue to assess it as part of a separate media plurality review. Comcast topped Murdoch’s offer for Sky with a $31 billion bid in February.

Under Tyrie’s leadership, the Treasury Committee was a persistent thorn in the side of Britain’s economic elite. In 2012, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was forced to reverse a budget measure imposing sales tax on Cornish pasties, a delicacy of the southwest region of England, in part because of scrutiny by the panel.

BOE Governor Mark Carney was a regular target, facing tough questions on everything from his early U-turn on forward guidance for monetary policy, to payment-system outages, to his reticence to clarify how long he wanted to serve in the role. Other central bank officials who endured his inquisitions included Gertjan Vlieghe, a policy maker and former Brevan Howard Asset Management economist who was forced to sell his stake in that partnership to avoid a conflict of interest.

Under his stewardship of the committee, Tyrie supervised the grilling of Bob Diamond over the Libor scandal and dismissed the testimony of the former Barclays Plc chief executive officer as “somewhat implausible.”

Tyrie was an adviser to two chancellors -- Nigel Lawson and John Major -- before he joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in the 1990s. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 and became Treasury Committee chairman in 2010, before being reappointed in 2015.

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