GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Israel

10 January 2017

Israel

A strong criminal enforcement regime and class-action culture generate novel cases, while constantly evolving legislation makes compliance advice all the more sought after.

Elite

The competition practice at AGMON & CO ROSENBERG HACOHEN & CO is led by founding partner Zvi Agmon, who is widely respected across the country’s competition bar. The widely respected Mattan Meridor left to set up a boutique in September 2016, following concerns over a potential conflict of interest after his brother became director-general of Israel’s infrastructure, energy and water industry.

The firm represents Texas-based Noble Energy, which seeks to exploit the Leviathan gas field in a joint venture with Delek Group. Opposition to the deal has been fierce. The head of Israel’s competition authority resigned in May 2015 after the government ignored his concerns that the venture would create a de facto monopoly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently approved the deal in his capacity as head of Israel’s Economy Ministry on the grounds of national security.

Agmon also advises Delek in several antitrust litigations, successfully defending against a civil suit filed by a petrol station operator alleging its contract with Delek required it to exclusively market Delek products. The case is currently under appeal. Cellcom, Israel’s largest mobile telecoms company, is another regular client, which the firm most recently counselled on the approval of a joint maintenance agreement with its closest competitor. Agmon regularly advises major shopping mall operator Melisron on compliance, particularly the issue of exclusivity at the company’s premises. In criminal proceedings, the team represents the chairman of Arad against a charge of bid-rigging of tenders among water meter manufacturers.

FISCHER BEHAR CHEN WELL ORION & CO boasts the largest antitrust practice in Israel, now at four partners and 11 associates. Led by Tal Eyal-Boger, they handle the full scope of competition work, from representations before Israel’s Antitrust Authority, to civil litigation and criminal work.

The firm counts an impressive number of major domestic and foreign companies as clients. It has represented Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration in proceedings before the authority in matters related to the Leviathan natural gas reservoir, and in related high court matters. Dairy company Tnuva also brings a large volume of work. Eyal-Boger is representing the company in various matters and proceedings related to claims that it abused its dominance by setting excessive prices on its products. The firm has defended Tnuva against half a dozen class actions demanding hundreds of millions of euros combined, along with a criminal case before the IAA, all over the company’s alleged restrictive pricing.

The firm represents Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecommunications group, in a range of antitrust matters. This includes an appeal to the Antitrust Tribunal against the antitrust authority’s decision that the company abused its dominant position in setting its pricing policy for internet and telephony infrastructure services. The firm is defending the same company in a class action on the same issue. Israel Discount Bank turned to Fischer Behar as well, as it battles two class actions against its alleged business practices. Google and Waze are also major clients; the firm is defending Waze against claims it is unfairly dominating the route-mapping market in Israel.

Four antitrust partners at TADMOR & CO YUVAL LEVY & CO are former executives at Israel’s Antitrust Authority, something that doubtless contributes to the reputation afforded the practice by international firms and the enforcer itself. Firm founder David Tadmor, the director general of the authority between 1997 and 2001, is regarded as one of the country’s leading competition law experts. He co-heads the practice with Shai Bakal, and they are joined in the partnership by antitrust litigation expert Nava Karavany, and frequently supported by litigation partner and former authority prosecutor Ittai Paldor. Partner Doron Kilshtein also focuses on litigation matters.

The firm specialises in cross-border transactions and this year has worked on some of the world’s largest and most significant tie-ups. Tadmor acted for Dell in its acquisition of EMC, for which the firm handled the Israeli filing and obtained unconditional clearance. Locally, the firm guided fitness chain Holmes Place in its purchase of rival Great Shape, winning clearance outright after an in-depth review.

Tadmor has had its hands full with behavioural work as well over the past year. It is advising Siemens in its appeal to the Antitrust Tribunal over the authority’s punishment of the alleged gas insulated switchgear cartel – the Israeli enforcer’s first international cartel prosecution. The firm is also advising Leumi Card, a major credit card company in Israel, in a case involving interchange fees and how those fees are set between competing banks and card companies. Tadmor also serves as regular antitrust advisory counsel to Nestlé and its local subsidiary Osem, including helping the companies navigate the country’s new Food Sector Law.

The competition team at WEINSTOCK-ZECLER & CO is a go-to firm for complex litigation work in Israel, both criminal and administrative. Niv Zecler, the former general counsel of Israel’s Antitrust Authority, works alongside two fellow partners and five associates, including two new hires. Partner Eran Zach specialises in criminal work and Ofer Argov focuses on civil antitrust and corporate litigation.

This year, the firm’s competition team has been busy with criminal, administrative and civil proceedings. On the civil side, it defended food company Strauss Group against Cadbury’s allegations that it abused its dominant position and foreclosed the chocolate maker from the market, and against four class actions alleging abusive conduct and excessive pricing. Zecler is also advising CAL Israel Credit Cards in a class action alleging an illegal agreement on fees for prepaid and debit cards. Meanwhile, in criminal matters, the firm is representing E & M Computing, Amisragas and Angel Bakeries in IAA investigations of potential price fixing and other alleged criminal conduct.

Deal work remains busy at the firm as well. The firm is advising Abbott Laboratories in gaining Israeli clearance for its US$25 billion purchase of St Jude Medical, which was notified in July and remains under investigation as of this writing.

In December 2015, Epstein Knoller Tenenboim & Co. dissolved, and founding partner Eytan Epstein took his significant team to rival firm M. FIRON & CO. The merger created and formed one of the country’s largest law firms and specifically, one of the largest antitrust practices group, bringing together former Epstein competition partners Tamar Dolev-Green and Mazor Matzkevich, who previously spent four years at Israel’s Antitrust Authority and six at the US Federal Trade Commission, and Firon's competition partner Niv Sever,considered one of the front runners for the position of the General Director of the Israeli Antitrust Authority for the 2016 appointment, who also works at the intersections of competition, energy and privacy; Epstein, now a senior partner at M. Firon & Co. maintains an active role and practice in the firm.

Multiple clients moved with Epstein and his team, M Firon says, including Sanofi and the Israel Electric Company. The firm is advising Toshiba in class actions for both cathode ray tubes and lithium batteries. Long-standing client MasterCard has turned to the firm during the antitrust authority’s market study and potential reform of the debit cards sector. The firm is advising Merhavit Kiryat Shmona Area Bakery and Dganit Ain Bar Bakery in a criminal investigation of an alleged bread cartel. ThyssenKrupp is also a client; the firm is advising the company during the authority’s elevator cartel investigation. Other clients include Diplomat Distributors, which is targeted in an abuse of dominance lawsuit in the market for Gillette razors.

MEITAR LIQUORNIK GEVA LESHEM TAL has undergone significant changes at the top of its competition practice after former practice leader Michal Halperin left to take over as head of Israel’s Antitrust Authority. Meitar partner Niva Barg Livnat took over as head of the practice; two other partners round out the competition team. The firm prides itself on its experience working with high-tech and innovative companies, especially on matters such as the definition of markets in emerging industries and technological industries still in the research and development stage. The firm sees itself as the market leader on the interface between intellectual property and competition law.

Pfizer remains a major client for which the firm has acted on two recent complex deals: its merger with Allergan, and its acquisition of GlaxoSmithKline’s meningitis vaccines business. The antitrust authority approved both deals. The firm is also working for Yenot Bitan in its bid for rival retailer Mega, which is now on appeal to the tribunal after a disagreement on divestments. In behavioural matters, the firm counsels payment clearance company Shva on compliance issues, a joint ownership question and other matters; and El Al on an abuse of dominance investigation before the IAA. It is also guiding Philip Morris International in defending against a class action lawsuit filed in Tel Aviv District Court alleging abuse of the company’s monopoly power through excessive pricing.

Hagai Doron leads the compact but talented practice at S HOROWITZ & CO. Established in 1959, it is one of the oldest antitrust groups in Israel. Doron is joined in the partnership by Pnina Sheffer, Asaf Rentsler and, most recently, Gitit Levin-Grinberg, who was promoted to partner in January 2016.

The team rightfully prides itself on its success in coordinating large global mergers. It acted for medical supply maker Medtronic in its US$43 billion tie-up with Covidien; for General Electics in its high-profile combination with Alstom; for Koch Industries in its US$1.2 billion acquisition of Guardian Industries; for Teva’s purchase of Allergan’s generic drug business; and Teva’s sale of its stake in a chain of dialysis centres in Israel. The firm boasts a host of other international clients, including a good portion of the car industry: it acts for Porsche, Volkswagen, Jaguar and Land Rover among others, and recently helped Aston Martin set up a new distribution chain. Doron and his team are involved in some major ongoing cartel cases, including acting for Fuji in gas insulated switchgear, for British Airways in air cargo and for Sharp in liquid-crystal-display panels. The firm is also acting for the Israel Electric Company and three of its executives in an abuse of dominance hearing before Israel’s Antitrust Authority and Antitrust Tribunal, while the International Air Transport Association is also an active client in matters with the authority.

Gal Rozent leads the practice at ESHEL ASHLAGI ROZENT LAW OFFICES, which he helped to found in August 2013. The firm acts for the Israel Electric Corporation in its pursuit of damages arising from the gas insulated switchgear cartel. It represents the Israel Association of Travel Agencies and Consultants and more than 100 agencies against a group of major airlines for an alleged collective refusal to pay fees. In criminal proceedings, the firm is defending an employee of Matrix IT in the antitrust authority’s computer equipment bid-rigging case, and a tour operator and its senior employees in a criminal cartel investigation.

The relatively young competition practice at HERZOG FOX & NEEMAN is beginning to make its mark on the antitrust landscape. Talya Solomon took over the leadership of the practice at the beginning of 2015 after former head Boaz Golan left to start his own firm; she works alongside senior associate Iris Achmon. The firm is advising the Israel Electric Company in matters related to its monopoly position in the country, including issues before Israel’s Antitrust Authority and the Antitrust Tribunal. ChemChina and its local subsidiary, Adama, turned to Herzog for guidance on a US$43 billion merger with Syngenta. The deal has vertical and horizontal overlaps, especially locally, but the authority cleared the deal with no conditions. The firm is also defending clients including the Egg and Poultry Board, and several industrial bakeries against numerous class actions.

A former director of enforcement and compliance at Israel’s Antitrust Authority, D Ziv Abramovich runs a small but effective practice at LAPIDOT MELCHior ABRAMOVICH & CO. The Jerusalem-based firm features a second office in Tel Aviv; Abramovich and two associates are based there while one works from Jerusalem. In merger matters, the firm acted for Cellcom, the country’s largest mobile network operator, in its acquisition of Home Cellular. It also won clearance for Tempo Beverages in its purchase of a stake in ADIR trade, a beverage importer, then again in Tempo’s purchase of part of tea and coffee importer Neni. Several other merger files landed with Lapidot over the past year. In behavioural matters, it is advising on criminal accusations of bid rigging against a meteorology company and its chief executive – that case is on appeal to the Supreme Court. The firm is acting on several other criminal matters and civil class actions, including a lawsuit against Vetmarket Trade alleging abuse of dominance and restrictive arrangements.

YIGAL ARNON & CO is headed by Ronit Amir Yaniv, a 23-year ­veteran of the antitrust field. She is supported by four associates and a separate litigation team, which takes on a large number of class actions. The firm has perhaps the most robust practice is Israel for a group its size, with major merger cases on the books. The firm represented both sides of a kibbutz-based irrigation and pipe merger between Metzerplas and Palgal Plastic Industries, to which Israel’s Antitrust Authority first objected before approving the deal with conditions. The firm also advised both FedEx and TNT Express in the shipping couriers’ merger. The team continues to handle litigation matters for the Minrav Group, a real estate contractor accused of bid rigging contracts during the 2008 Gaza war. Ashdod Port Company turned to Yigal for litigation assistance, as it defends itself against the authority’s abuse of dominance allegations. El Al and the Israel Postal Company are also clients.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

Agmon & Co Rosenberg Hacohen & Co

Zvi Agmon

5 partners

3 associates

Zvi Agmon

PazGas, Zenith OptiMedia, Bank Hapoalim, Delek Group, Allergan, Isracard, Cellcom, Noble Energy Mediterranian

Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co

Tal Eyal-Boger

Reuven Behar

4 partners

11 associates

Tal Eyal-Boger

Delek Drilling, Google Israel, Tnuva Central Cooperative, Israel Discount Bank, Bezeq, Modan Publishing

Tadmor & Co Yuval Levy & Co

David E Tadmor

Shai Bakal

5 partners

9 asociates

David E Tadmor

Shai Bakal

Paz Oil, Ratio Oil, Israel Today, Novartis, Colgate, AbbVie, El Al, Siemens, Dell, ESC, Issta

Weinstock-Zecler

Niv Zecler

3 partners

5 associates

Niv Zecler

Strauss Group, CAL Israel Credit Cards, E&M Computing, Amisragas, Angel Bakeries, Abbott Laboratories

Highly recommended

M Firon & Co.

Tamar Dolev-Green

Mazor Matzkevich

Niv Sever

4 partners

None

Toshiba, MasterCard, ThyssenKrupp, Sanofi, Israel Electric Company, Gad Dairies, Bazan Group

Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal

Niva Barg Livnat

3 partners

10 lawyers

None

Pfizer, Yenot Bitan, Shva, El Al, Philip Morris

S Horowitz & Co

Hagai Doron

4 partners

Hagai Doron

Daf Trucks, Honda, Linear Technology, Flint, Merieux NutriSciences, British Airways, Sharp Corporation, IATA, Israel Electric Company

Recommended

Eshel Ashlagi Rozent Law Offices

Gal Rozent

1 partner

2 associates

Gal Rozent

Israel Electric Corporation, Israel Association of Travel Agencies and Consultants, Intel, Schindler, 3M, Partner Communications, Maccabi Healthcare

Herzog Fox & Neeman

Talya Solomon

1 partner

1 senior associate

2 associates

None

IEC, ChemChina, The First International Bank of Israel, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Brokers Association, Dash Investment House, Daimler, Lufthansa

Lapidot Melchior Abramovich & Co

Ziv Abramovich

1 partner

2 associates

Ziv Abramovich

Tempo Beverages, Kimberley Clark Israel Marketing, Sanofi, Sygenta, Vetmarket Trade, General Mills Israel, Brink's, Boeringer Ingelheim International

Yigal Arnon & Co

Ronit Amir Yaniv

1 partner

4 associates

None

Minrav Group, Metzerplas, El Al, Israel Postal Company, Ashdod Port Company

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