London and Brussels are unquestionably the hubs for Clifford Chance’s antitrust practice – but it has excellently rated teams elsewhere, and is a serious deals heavyweight. The Clifford Chance partnership was one up, one down in 2016. Former Office of Fair Trading official Alastair Mordaunt left the firm’s London office to join Freshfields in Hong Kong in April. In October, former Competition and Markets Authority mergers director Nelson Jung joined the London team as a partner.
|Merger ranking||4||Litigation ranking||-||Cartel ranking||-|
|Global heads||Thomas Vinje|
|Number of jurisdictions with a competition team||22|
|Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal||31|
|Lateral partner hires||1|
Thomas Vinje heads Clifford Chance’s global antitrust practice from Brussels, giving him convenient access to lobby the European Commission about finding Google to have abused its dominance. That same office also houses formidable mergers specialist Tony Reeves; in 2016, he handled the European leg of Staples/Office Depot for Staples. While that deal ultimately failed due to a US Federal Trade Commission lawsuit, DG Comp cleared the deal with extensive remedies in February 2016. Reeves also represented General Electric during its acquisition of Alstom’s power and grid businesses. After lengthy and complicated proceedings, that deal ultimately received conditional DG Comp clearance, and extensive cooperation between merger enforcers. Rising star Frances Dethmers in Brussels advised Mondi during the packaging and paper company’s ultimately aborted acquisition of a pair of plants from rival Walki.
Clifford Chance is typically tight-lipped about its cartel work, but its European offices have an excellent track record. In Spain, for example, the firm obtained the annulment of a €1.5 million fine imposed on Avis, and has advised several insurers in an appeal against fines to Spain’s Supreme Court. Morgan Stanley turned to the firm to represent it in the DG Comp credit default swaps investigation, which the enforcer ultimately dropped; a German Clifford Chance team obtained another declination for a provider of container transport services before Germany’s Federal Cartel Office.
In non-cartel behavioural work, alongside Thomas Vinje’s long-time activity challenging Google’s business practices, the firm is involved in several major cases – especially in Europe. Clifford Chance represents MasterCard in DG Comp’s ongoing cross-border and inter-regional interchange fees investigation. The firm also acts for NBCUniversal in a pair of high-profile DG Comp matters: the pay-TV probe, and the e-commerce sector inquiry. In the UK, Zoetis and Xellia tapped Clifford Chance to defend them against the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s first pay-for-delay investigation. The companies, alongside the others implicated in the allegedly illegal scheme, have filed appeals against the decision.