GCR 100 - 17th Edition

France

10 January 2017

France

France’s competition bar is nourished by an antitrust authority ready to take unusual steps to remedy its concerns, as well as close proximity to Brussels and the EU enforcer.

Elite

BREDIN PRAT has France’s best competition practice. Its head, Robert Saint-Esteben, is a true pioneer of French competition law, having founded Bredin Prat’s practice in 1972. Since then, a number of excellent lieutenants have joined him, including Hugues Calvet, Olivier Billard and Marie-Cécile Rameau. Marc Pittie is based in Brussels where the firm is part of the prestigious “Best Friends” network along with Slaughter and May and other top European firms.

Calvet acted for Apple as it challenged the French Competition Authority’s seizure of privileged files during a dawn raid, leading to a partial victory in the Paris Court of Appeal for the technology company. Chronopost turned to the Bredin Prat team during the French courier and deliveries cartel investigation, which ended in the imposition of a near-record €672 million total fine, of which Chronopost paid €99 million. Calvet and Rameau represented Orange as the telecommunications company and SFR successfully appealed against a 2012 French abuse of dominance fine. Orange received a 20% cut to its €117 million penalty. The two partners also acted for incumbent radio and television operator TDF during a French abuse of dominance investigation, in which the company ultimately paid a €20.6 million fine.

In merger control, Calvet and counsel Valérie Landes represented electrical goods retailer Darty during its €900 million acquisition by Fnac. They ultimately succeeded in getting the deal conditionally cleared with the sale of only six shops in Paris and its suburbs; the companies owned 400 such shops nationwide. That case marked the first time France’s Competition Authority has assessed a retail market as including both brick-and-mortar and online outlets during a merger case. Bredin Prat also acted for third party Iliad, a French telecommunications provider, during European Commission’s review of Hutchison/VimpelCom.

Anne Wachsmann and Pierre Zelenko preside over an impressive range of cases at LINKLATERS. They are joined by new partner Thomas Elkins, who was promoted in May 2016. Counsel Jérémie Marthan, Sabine Thibault-Liger and Nicolas Zacharie and 25 associates complement the team.

Zelenko led Société Générale’s appeal against a €446 million fine arising from its settlement with the commission in the Euribor cartel; in an unprecedented move, DG Comp agreed to cut its penalty in half, ending the bank’s appeal. Wachsmann and counsel Thibault-Liger represented Air France-KLM during its appeal against DG Comp’s air cargo cartel decision, where the airline was one of ten to have its fine annulled completely by the General Court. Zelenko and Marthan represented former gas monopoly Engie during a predatory pricing investigation – which saw France’s Competition Authority impose interim measures – and a subsequent appeal. Wachsmann and Elkins acted for Hoechst and Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland during a complex European Court of Justice proceeding against Genentech, which dealt with the extent to which EU law blocks licensors from seeking royalties for revoked patents.

As Nestlé set up a €3 billion joint venture with R&R that would combine their worldwide ice cream business, it turned to Linklaters, which handled an EU notification and coordinated work across more than 20 jurisdictions. Wachsmann and Zacharie represented Sanofi as it swapped its animal health division for Boehringer Ingelheim’s consumer healthcare business and paid the latter company €4.7 billion; DG Comp ultimately conditionally cleared the deal in Phase I. In another Nestlé deal, Zelenko handled the sale of its frozen food distributor Davigel to the Brakes Group, which saw the deal referred from DG Comp to the French enforcer.

Jacques-Philippe Gunther is the star of the excellent competition team at WILLKIE FARR & GALLAGHER but the understated David Tayar is also highly regarded. They are joined by Faustine Viala in Paris, but Gunther splits his time with the Brussels office.

Gunther acted for CMA CGM in DG Comp’s shipping liner price-signalling saga, which ultimately ended in July 2016 with the enforcer accepting commitments from the French container company and 13 others. The company also tapped Willkie Farr to handle its merger with Neptune Orient Lines, which was conditioned on Neptune agreeing to leave a shipping alliance. Tayar acted for Teva in its US$40.5 billion acquisition of Allergan’s generics business, which DG Comp agreed to clear in Phase I after accepting sell-offs proposed by the buyer.

The Willkie Farr Paris team represented shareholders of TDF during a French abuse of dominance investigation of the company following a rival’s complaint. It also acts for Orange – a regular blue-chip client – in response to a complaint by Bouygues Telecom regarding the company’s 2G and 3G roaming agreement with Free Mobile. In litigation, the team has represented rail operator Kuehne + Nagel in the Paris Court of Appeal, and Essilor in the same court as the lens-maker sought annulment of dawn raids conducted by the French enforcer.

CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON eschews European national boundaries, and its competition lawyers across the continent work almost seamlessly with its team in Brussels. Assessing its impact on the French market specifically, therefore, is tricky, but the firm represents some of France’s largest corporations, including Lafarge, Airbus, Hachette and Veolia. Much of the work for these clients is on an EU stage, but it dips its oar into some weighty domestic matters as well. While François Brunet is the only partner permanently based in Paris, big names Antoine Winckler and François-Charles Laprévote lead a substantial French contingent in Brussels. Counsel Frédéric de Bure also has an impressive practice.

Cleary is Google’s lead counsel in Brussels and does a lot of work for the company in France: in November 2015, following the firm’s arguments, the Paris appeals court rejected rival Evermaps’ allegations of predatory pricing and exclusionary conduct. Winckler and de Bure represent Hachette in the DG Comp investigation of Amazon’s most-favoured-nation clauses. Brunet is counsel to the Association of Angry Fans Against Financial Fair Play as it sues UEFA in the Paris courts, arguing the football association’s rules stifle investment and restrict competition between football clubs. Cleary acted for Lagardère before the European Court of Justice, which dismissed publisher Odile Jacobs’s challenge to divestments that DG Comp imposed during Lagardère’s acquisition of Vivendi’s book publishing division.

With Patrick Hubert and of counsel Michel Petite, CLIFFORD CHANCE can call upon two of France’s most experienced competition lawyers. Hubert has been general counsel to the French competition authority and has extensive experience in government, while Petite spent nearly 30 years at the European Commission, including as a legal adviser and head of cabinet to various commission presidents; they are supported by one of counsel, two counsel and eight associates. Partner Emmanuel Durand left for De Pardieu Brocas Maffei in October 2016. Unsurprisingly, the practice is strong on public, EU law and state aid, as well as pure competition matters.

Hubert represents the UK Royal Mail’s French subsidiary in the local competition authority’s deliveries and courier cartel investigation. The company was ordered to pay €55 million; Clifford Chance is now representing it in an appeal. The firm also handled an SFR complaint about abuse of dominance on the mobile and landline markets for professional customers. The firm has also represented Plastic Omnium in European review of its acquisition of Faurecia’s automotive exterior business, and Airbus Safran Launchers as it bought Arianespace, ultimately getting conditional EU Phase II clearance for the deal.

DARROIS VILLEY MAILLOT BROCHIER’s competition practice is headed by partners Didier Théophile and Igor Simic. Alexandre Rios was promoted to counsel in 2016 and eight associates are dedicated to competition work. The firm’s most recent headline case involved representing Faiveley as it sold a subsidiary to Wabtec; DG Comp conditionally cleared the deal after a Phase II review in October 2016.

There’s much more to report, though, both in mergers and conduct work. Bouygues turned to the team for the attempted sale of Bouygues Telecom to Orange (the deal collapsed in April 2016), as did Accor in its more successful €2.4 billion acquisition of FRHI, which completed in July 2016. Vente-privee.com also tapped the firm as it defended itself during a French investigation, as well as a pair of damages claims. Another major defence mandate is for Schneider Electric, which has been sued by SNCF for approximately €500 million.

Four specialist competition partners, one senior associate and six associates make up the DE PARDIEU BROCAS MAFFEI practice, an independent French firm with a roster of competition work. Emmanuel Durand joined partners Philippe Guibert and Laure Givry in September 2016 from Clifford Chance. Regulatory partner Christine Le Bihan-Graf and one regulatory associate also assist the competition team.

The firm continues to represent Booking.com before France’s Competition Authority and the Paris commercial court, putting it on the front lines of one of the most contentious European cases in recent years. Behavioural work, litigation and appeals are clearly a strength: Guibert has represented Société Générale in the Cartes Bancaires European appeal – which has so far seen a loss in the General Court, a precedent-setting ruling by the ECJ that admonished the lower court for shoving the case into the by-object box, and a second, effects-based ruling in the General Court. The firm also assisted a major Swiss operator in a French pork butchery investigation. In merger control, the team represented a third party in the Coty/Procter & Gambledeal.

Olivier de Juvigny and Thibault Reymond founded DETHOMAS PELTIER JUVIGNY & ASSOCIÉS in 2014. De Juvigny is among the finest competition lawyers in France and has continued to work on some major matters; foremost among these is the representation of BNP Paribas in the Cartes Bancaires case – including its second turn in the General Court, which went to an effects-based analysis following an ECJ slapdown.

The firm was recently involved in third-party opposition to the Auchan/Systeme U and Decaus/Metrobus mergers, which were abandoned in 2016. It also acted for Worldline during its acquisition of Equens and subsidiary PaySquare, which received conditional DG Comp clearance in April 2016. Vivendi turned to the Dethomas team as it conducted a hostile takeover of Gameloft, which involved multi-jurisdictional merger filings.

FRESHFIELDS BRUCKHAUS DERINGER lost partner Maria Trabucchi to BDGS Associates in January 2016; the practice now counts sole Paris-based partner Jérôme Philippe and eight associates. He is looking to develop the practice in the follow-on damages area, where Freshfields has a top reputation on the defence side. The team acted for EDF during its planned acquisition of Areva NP, which handles nuclear reactors and fuel assemblies. The deal, which is worth around €2.5 billion, looks set to be notified to DG Comp and others.

But it’s in behavioural work and litigation that the practice has really shone in recent years: the team represented the InterContinental Hotels Group as a third party in the French hotel booking investigation and acts for a major French supermarket chain in a DG Comp milk, pork and beef sector inquiry. Freshfields is acting for a US company in four Paris court cases in which a French minister is attempting to nullify clauses in its distribution agreements with telecoms operators. SGL Carbon is also a client: Freshfields is defending it in a French follow-on claim by incumbent rail operator SNCF following its role in the carbon and graphite products cartel.

Competition, distribution and consumer law boutique VOGEL & VOGEL celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015. Its practice is widely acknowledged as the leader in France for competition matters related to distribution and it acts for a range of blue-chip companies. The magazine GQ even rated its two heads, Joseph and Louis Vogel, as the seventh most powerful lawyers in France, calling them “the industrialists”.

The firm has a well-deserved reputation in conduct work: it represented Eurosport during a cartel and abuse of dominance case, defending it during a complaint by France’s Competition Authority in a short timeframe. SHV Energy turned to the firm in its challenge against the UGI/Totalgaz merger. Vogel & Vogel is also involved in a raft of confidential conduct work.

Before becoming a competition lawyer, WHITE & CASE practice head Jean-Paul Tran Thiet, was a special adviser to the French prime minister and spent time in DG Comp, giving him broad experience on which to draw. The firm poached Gide partner Yann Utzschneider in April 2016. Despite some French lawyers saying that it is less visible than it used to be, White & Case nevertheless works on some impressive cases.

Thiet has been fighting against DG Comp’s Euribor decision for Crédit Agricole. The strategy included the unusual step of lodging a complaint regarding the commission’s alleged bias in handling the case – which led to the ombudsman stating that former commissioner Joaquin Almunia “created an impression of public bias” against the bank. He also acted for Outremer as it complained to France’s Competition Authority about an SFR subsidiary abusing its dominance in a pair of overseas territories, resulting in a €10.7 million fine on SFR in November 2015.

Florence Ninane and former ECJ référendaire Michel Struys lead the ALLEN & OVERY Paris team, following the departure of Olivier Fréget in 2014. Ninane does mainly French work while Struys concentrates on EU matters. Ninane represented Procter & Gamble in the home and personal care cartel, and continues to lead its appeal against a total €79 million fine. She and Struys also advise Samsung Electronics on an ongoing French investigation of alleged anticompetitive practices in the distribution of large and small appliances. Struys defends Morgan Advanced Materials in a follow-on actions by French rail operator SNCF. Ninana represented TNT in the French postal investigation, and advises it in an appeal against the competition authority’s fine.

Antoine Gosset-Grainville founded BDGS along with three other former Gide partners in April 2013. Five partners now make up the practice: he is joined by Mathilde Damon, Jérôme Fabre, Christina Renner and Maria Trabucchi, who was a partner at Freshfields in Paris until 2016. It’s been an impressive year: the team represented FNAC durings its acquisition of Darty, which bagged Phase II clearance from France’s Competition Authority. Safran also turned to the firm to handle Arianespace’s purchase by Airbus Safran Launchers, which required DG Comp clearance. BGDS acted for the French Trade and Distribution Federation in a European investigation of France’s agricultural sector.

The Bird & Bird team, headed by Julie Catala Marty, left to join FRANKLIN in March 2015. The firm has a raft of impressive clients, including the SFR Group, Altice, L’Oréal, appliance manufacturer Smeg and insulation maker Rockwool. The team represented SFR as Orange attempted to merge with Bouygues. It also acted for L’Oréal during Court of Appeal proceedings linked to the company’s €189 million French cartel case. Both Altice and SFR have turned to Franklin during a gun-jumping investigation – the matter remains France’s first-ever such case.

Olivier Fréget, former co-chair of Allen & Overy’s competition practice, set up FRÉGET – TASSO DE PANAFIEU with Charlotte Tasso de Panafieu, the former founding partner of Lex Case’s competition group, in 2014. The firm focuses on litigation and regulatory strategies for its clients. It is assisting Free Mobile during Bouygues’s attempt to get French interim measures imposed against the company and Orange, with a view to ending roaming agreements between the two. It is also acting for Direct Energie in another interim measures case, successfully persuading France’s Competition Authority to order Engie to change its pricing and disclose details of its methodology for accounting for costs.

Eric Morgan de Rivery and Eric Barbier de la Serre at JONES DAY lead the firm’s French practice; Brussels-based Charlotte Breuvart also has a significant Paris presence. Morgan de Rivery has acted for Elf Aquitaine and Total in General Court and ECJ appeals, and Deutsche Post/DHL in the French postal case. In merger control, Barbier de La Serre advised Apax as it acquired ONI and Cabovisão. Morgan de Rivery, alongside Bernard E Amory in Brussels, acted for MasterCard during an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to persuade France’s Competition Authority to undo commitments with the credit card company.

Frédéric Pradelles at LATHAM & WATKINS was lead counsel to Groupement des Cartes Bancaires in its seminal victory before the European Court of Justice regarding the definition of an object infringement – a key appeal making its way through the European courts. He has also advised prepaid corporate services company Edenred in French interim measures proceedings, which gave the competition practice only 10 days to respond to the 150-page complaint that sparked the proceedings; this involved reviewing more than 2,500 pages of documents. Hugues Vallette Viallard acted for German logistics company Dachser in the postal cartel investigation.

Recently, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY partner Jacques Buhart has represented Alstom in the settlement of a UK follow-on claim initiated by National Grid. Alloin and Kuehne + Nagel turned to Buhart and partner Lionel Lesur during the French postal cartel proceedings. Buhart, Nicolas Lafont and Thibaud Fortin represented Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems as an interested third party in the General Electric/Alstom deal.

NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT lost partner Mélanie Thill-Tayara to Dechert in February 2016; Marta Giner Asins is now the firm’s competition head in France. The firm recently represented HSBC in its appeal against DG Comp’s Euribor decision, and acted for a pair of companies in France’s poultry investigation. Norton Rose Fulbright also represents Pfizer in a French investigation stemming from a complaint about an alleged abuse of dominance, and Cephalon in a DG Comp investigation of its anti-generics strategies, including patent litigation settlements.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

Bredin Prat

Robert Saint-Esteben

4 partners

2 counsel

11 associates

Olivier Billard

Hugues Calvet

Marie-Cécile Rameau

Robert Saint-Esteben

Apple, Coca-Cola, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Orange, SNCF, Unilever, EDF, La Poste, Uber, Danone, beIN Sports

Linklaters

Anne Wachsmann

3 partners

3 counsel

25 associates

Anne Wachsmann

Pierre Zelenko

Sanofi, Société Générale, Air France, Engie, Nestlé, Beiersdorf, Suez Environnement, Peugeot Citroën/Gefco, GrandVision

Willkie Farr & Gallagher

Jacques-Philippe Gunther

4 partners

8 associates

Jacques-Philippe Gunther

David Tayar

Philip Morris, Air France, L’Oréal, CMA CGM, Thales, Teva, Crédit Mutuel, Orange, Essilor, Rexel, Arkema

 

Highly recommended

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

François Brunet

Antoine Winckler

3 partners

1 counsel

François Brunet

Airbus, Altice, Citigroup, Google, Hachette, Heineken, Henke, Lafarge, Merck, Total, Veolia, Whirlpool

Clifford Chance

Patrick Hubert

2 partners

1 of counsel

2 counsel

8 associates

Emmanuel Durand

Patrick Hubert

Michel Petite

Airbus, Carrefour, EDF, General Electric, Royal Mail, Saint Gobain, SFR, Société Générale

Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier

Igor Simic

Didier Théophile

2 partners

1 counsel

8 associates

Igor Simic

Didier Théophile

Accor, Airbus, Amazon, Aéroport de Paris, Bouygues, Danone, Faiveley transport, JCDecaux, Michelin, Schneider Electric

De Pardieu Brocas Maffei

Philippe Guibert

4 partners

1 senior associate

7 associates

Laure Givry

Philippe Guibert

Booking.com, FPS Towers, Karhoo, Société Générale

Dethomas Peltier Juvigny & Associés

Olivier de Juvigny

Thibault Reymond

2 partners

Olivier de Juvigny

Advent, BNP Paribas, Biogaran, Casino, Nutrixo, Servier, VINCI, Vivendi

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Jérôme Philippe

1 partner

8 senior associates and associates

Jérôme Philippe

EDF, Ardian, Groupe Soufflet, Pierre Fabre, Tesla, Volkswagen, Visa Europe, CMA CGM

Gide Loyrette Nouel

N/A

N/A

Antoine Choffel

Emmanuel Reille

N/A

Vogel & Vogel

Joseph Vogel

Louis Vogel

10 partners

2 of counsel

Joseph Vogel

Louis Vogel

British American Tobacco, Bonduelle, BMW, Bic, Bouygues, British Telecom, Bugatti, DaimlerChrysler, Eurotunnel, Ferrari

White & Case

Yann Utzschneider

3 partners

2 counsel

4 associates

Juliette Goyer

Jean-Paul Tran Thiet

Yann Utzschneider

Intermarché Casino Achats, Loxam, Nexans, Nespresso, Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Faurecia

Recommended

Allen & Overy

Florence Ninane

Michel Struys

2 partners

6 associates

Florence Ninane

Airbus, Amazon, BNP Paribas, Engie, TNT, Total, Mozilla, Procter & Gamble, Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI, Tripadvisor

BDGS

Antoine Gosset-Grainville

Maria Trabucchi

5 partners

5 associates

Maria Trabucchi

Air France, Borealis, Bricorama, Carrefour, CMA CGM, FNAC, Groupama, La Banque Postale, Safran, SNCF, Solvay

Franklin

Julie Catala Marty

1 partner

7 associates

None

SFR Group, Altice, L’Oréal, Itron, Smeg, Rockwool, Ciments Calcia, GSM

Fréget – Tasso de Panafieu

Olivier Fréget

Charlotte Tasso de Panafieu

2 partners

1 counsel

4 associates

Olivier Fréget

Direct Energie, Free, Next Radio TV, TDF, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Canal+, Novartis, Hillshire, Air France

Jones Day

Eric Barbier de la Serre

Eric Morgan de Rivery

2 partners

1 of counsel

3 associates

Eric Barbier de la Serre

Eric Morgan de Rivery

DHL/Deutsche Post, Orange, Kering, Ligue Nationale de Rugby, Renault/Nissan, Sanofi, SAP, Total/Elf Aquitaine

Latham & Watkins

Frédéric Pradelles

Hugues Vallette Viallard

2 partners

8 associates

None

Accor, CRH, Dachser, Freudenberg, Groupement des Cartes Bancaires, William Demant

McDermott Will & Emery

Jacques Buhart

3 partners

Jacques Buhart

Mitsubishi, Alstom

Norton Rose Fulbright

Marta Giner Asins

1 partner

2 senior associates

3 associates

None

HSBC, Ernest Soulard, Pfizer, Allianz, Citibank, Cephalon

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