Once again, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is the only firm to feature elite offices in both of the world’s antitrust and competition hubs – Washington, DC and Brussels. With 70% of its lawyers being ranked in Who’s Who Legal, the firm’s peers and rivals clearly consider its individual lawyers to be a cut above the competition.
|Merger ranking||3||Litigation ranking||-||Cartel ranking||4|
|Global heads||Mark Leddy, George Cary, Antoine Winckler, Nicholas Levy|
|Number of jurisdictions with a competition team||6|
|Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal||70|
Lateral partner hires
Cleary has one of the world’s most stable competition practices. No partners left the team across the world, and it made only one lateral hire – former longtime Cleary lawyer David I Gelfand chose to return after a three-year stint as the DOJ antitrust division’s litigation head in June 2016. “It was always going to be Cleary,” he said at the time – and big-name clients appear to think along the same lines when they go back to the firm again and again to handle some of the most complex work around.
In last year’s GCR 100, we referred to the European Commission’s Google investigation as “perhaps the world’s most-watched unilateral conduct investigation”. It still is, and Cleary is still on the front lines of that fight. As of November 2016, DG Comp had issued multiple statements of objection to the company, with Cleary defending it against allegations of abuse of dominance in its online search, online advertising and Android smartphone operating system businesses. That’s not all: the firm has also acted for Google in France, Germany, India and Taiwan. Other firms have also been involved on the defence side, but Cleary partners remain in the lead. Lundbeck has also turned to Cleary in its court fight against a DG Comp pay-for-delay decision; Brussels partners Romano Subiotto QC and Robbert Snelders and counsel Tilman Kuhn in Cologne represented the company in the General Court. Citigroup also turned to Cleary partner Francisco Enrique González-Díaz during DG Comp’s credit default swaps investigation.
On the deals side, DC partners George Cary and Elaine Ewing, and Cologne partner Dirk Schroeder, are advising agribusiness giant Dow Chemical through its merger with DuPont; the deal went to Phase II before DG Comp in August 2016, and has required antitrust advice before no less than 21 competition enforcers. Italmobiliare tapped another cross-border team – this time comprised of Mark W Nelson in Washington, DC, Mario Siragusa in Brussels and Matteo Beretta in Milan – to handle its spin-off of subsidiary Italcementi to HeidelbergCement, which required divestments following US Federal Trade Commission and DG Comp review. The team also had a role in bumper beer deal Anheuser-Busch InBev/SABMiller – albeit not for either of the main players: it represented Molson Coors as the brewer acquired SABMiller’s US assets for US$12 billion. That transaction required Cleary’s advice in the EU, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Ukraine and the US.
Much of Cleary’s cartel work is confidential, but the firm has recently handled a slew of complex immunity and leniency applications. In Europe, the firm secured a 40% discount for Volvo during DG Comp’s truck cartel investigation through a successful leniency application, and it has secured full declinations for auto parts suppliers in the EU and US. It has also spared clients from investigations in the capacitors and resistors sectors. The firm truly shines in its ability to coordinate large, global cartel investigations: in the relevant time period, Cleary has steered the likes of Citigroup, DHL, HSBC, K Line, NSK and Valeo through global probes.
In the US, Cleary continues to represent Teladoc as it challenges the Texas Medical Board – the first case challenging a licensing board’s state immunity since the US Supreme Court’s North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners judgment. The litigation cleared the motion to dismiss stage in December 2015. As one might expect, the firm is on the defence side in US litigation relating to auto parts, forex, ISDAfix and several other high-profile cases. And over in the UK, the firm has once again acted for Google – this time in the defence of unilateral conduct allegations from Foundem and Streetmap; and KME in its defence against a UK follow-on claim.