1. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
|Global heads:||John Davies, Martin Klusmann|
|Home jurisdiction:||United Kingdom, Germany|
|Total size of firm:||2,940|
|No. of competition specialists:||261|
|Percentage of competition specialists:||9|
|Who’s Who Legal nominees:||40|
|Percentage of partners in Who’s Who Legal:||77|
|Counsel and consultants:||18|
|No. of lateral partner hires:||0|
|No. of partner departures:||0|
|No. of internal promotions:||3|
One need only look at the number of its partners that are nominated to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists to understand why Freshfields tops the list: an astonishing 40 lawyers, more than twice its nearest rival and seven more than last year. Freshfields’ percentage of Who’s Who Legal nominated partners has leapt from 61 per cent to 77 per cent, one of the highest in global elite. The firm has 13 offices globally, which include almost every major competition jurisdiction. It continues to grow, with counsels Hein Hobbelen, Till Steinvorth and Margaret Wang all promoted in the last year. Maria Trabucchi and Simon Priddis were nominated to this year’s “40 under 40”.
Freshfields has been involved in many of the highest-profile matters of the past year. The merger control practice has been busy advising Xstrata in its US$90 billion tie-up with Glencore, Synthes in its US$21 billion acquisition by Johnson & Johnson, and EMI in the £1.2 billion sale of its recorded music business to rival Universal Music. Freshfields also represented stainless steel company Inoxum’s €2.7 billion acquisition by Outokumpu, cleared with conditions at Phase II, and continues to act for courier company UPS in its merger with TNT. Other Phase II deals include advising paper company UPM Kymmene in its purchase of rival Myllykoski and ED&F MAN’s takeover by Sudzücker.
On the behavioural front, Freshfields is heavily involved in the prominent investigations of the e-books sector in the UK, US and EU, advising publishers Bertelsmann, Hachette and Pearson. The firm also successfully defended Chiquita Brands in EU cartel and multi-jurisdictional leniency proceedings, and advising Deutsche Bahn-owned Schenker in the global investigation of the freight forwarding sector. Freshfields continues to advise ThyssenKrupp and Emirates in follow-on damages actions regarding the elevator and air cargo cartel investigations.
State aid work is also steady, with Freshfields representing ING bank in its successful EU General Court appeal against a ruling of illegal state aid. The firm is also advising the Greek government on several state aid matters.
Partner and Who’s Who Legal nominee Axel Reidlinger leads the competition team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. He works alongside six senior associates. The team may be small, but it punches well above its weight.
This year, Reidlinger and his team advised Sberbank of Russia on its acquisition of Volksbank International, the joint CEE banking operations of the Volksbanken group. It also advised Hutchison on its planned acquisition of rival mobile telecoms company Orange Austria. The transaction still requires merger control and regulatory approval from the European Commission and from Austria’s national authorities.
The firm also advised rubber and plastic manufacturer Semperit on its production joint venture with an Asian manufacturer, and Styria Media Group and Moser Holding with respect to their proposed merger to bring the activities of their subsidiaries in the regional magazine business into a newly formed company.
On the behavioural side, the group represented a major Austrian brewery, which was subject to an antitrust investigation by the country’s Federal Competition Authority.
Other clients include Deutsche Bahn Group, Interseroh, Ringier, RWE and ThyssenKrupp Group.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer compliments its elite Brussels EU presence with a leading Belgian competition law practice.
Practice co-chairs and Who’s Who Legal nominees Laurent Garzaniti and Thomas Janssens lead the work in this area. Along with a team of four associates, they advise on an impressive proportion of cases launched by the Belgium Competition Council and have acted in behavioural matters in sectors as diverse as retail, building, travel and energy.
“You encounter them working on most cases,” says a lawyer from another firm. “They are very visible.”
Recently, Garzaniti successfully represented food retailer Delhaize/Food Lion in the authority’s investigation of the chocolate and confectionery sector, and continues to act for the company in the authority’s investigation of the health care and home brands sectors.
The firm also acted for Soufflet/Ceres, one of Europe’s leading flour producers, in a probe of the industry, and for an unnamed port services operator in the authority’s recently announced investigation into alleged anti-competitive
conduct in the Belgian travel sector.
Belgian international companies, including Anheuser-Busch InBev and chemical giant Solvay, are regular clients. The team has advised Blue Sky – a consortium of some of the largest industrial and antitrust aspects of a joint investment with Electrabel and Brussels Airport Company – on various competition issues.
Janssens describes the Belgian practice as “fully integrated with an international dimension”. Global firms, including PepsiCo, Carlson Wagonlit and RTL, frequently turn to the firm for antitrust advice when working in Belgium.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has Brussels’ second elite practice. Led by partner David Broomhall, Freshfields’ competition team boasts a size and capability that few firms in the city can match. With 11 partners (all of whom are Who’s Who Legal nominees, including practice head John Davies who also works in the London office), one counsel and 37 associates, the Freshfields team dwarfs most of its rivals.
The team remains busy, despite challenging times for European economies. Freshfields describes the abundance of work as a “flight to quality”: businesses operating in tough conditions look to work with the best firms to ensure they get optimum results.
The firm’s recent case load is testament to this, not least the fact that in the past year the team has advised clients directly involved in five Phase II merger investigations by the European Commission. Freshfields Brussels has worked on many of the past year’s most complex and best-known merger control cases, both in the European Union and globally.
Freshfields is advising EMI on the sale of its recorded music business to Universal – the Commission launched its in-depth investigation in March. The firm has also been selected to advise ED & F Man, Hutchison 3G, Synthes and UPM-Kymmene on their Phase II merger control cases. Other notable merger matters include advising Anheuser-Busch InBev (outside the US) of its acquisition of Mexico’s Grupo Modelo for US$20.1 billion and Xstrata on the global merger control aspects of its US$90 billion merger with Glencore.
But it’s not all about mergers. Behavioural work is high on the agenda too, with Freshfields working for numerous high-profile clients in some of the most notable EU-level cartel matters. The firm advised Asahi Glass Company on its settlement with the European Commission following the DG Comp’s investigation of the cathode ray tubes (CRT) glass industry. The firm is advising Deutsche Bahn-owned Schenker in relation to the global investigation of the freight forwarding sector.
Following applications to the General Court, Freshfields’ Brussels team also obtained revocation in full by the European Commission of fines of over €68 million imposed on Ciba (part of BASF) and more than €23 million imposed on Elementis in the European Commission’s heat stabilisers cartel decision.
Solvay and ThyssenKrupp are also clients of Freshfields’ cartel practice.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to impress under the leadership of Who’s Who Legal nominee Jérôme Philippe. Partner Maria Trabucchi is also highly thought of, and they are supported by two counsel and eight associates.
The group has handled a series of high-profile multi-jurisdictional mergers over the last year, including advising Wolseley in its takeover by Saint-Gobain and representing EADS in its €960 million purchase of Vizada from private equity firm Apax Partners. The firm also acted for LVMH in its €4.3 billion acquisition of Bulgari.
On the behavioural front, the firm is representing Hewlett-Packard in its abuse of dominance dispute with Oracle. After filing complaints with DG Comp and the US authorities over Oracle’s alleged exclusion of HP from the market for high-end corporate servers, HP brought its case to France. Freshfields also advised Laboratoires Pierre Fabre in a landmark litigation at the ECJ regarding the legality of refusing online sales of its products.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s renowned competition practice is the largest in Germany and boasts an unparalleled 62 antitrust lawyers divided among offices in Berlin, Cologne and Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf-based partner Martin Klusmann is global co-head of the firm’s antitrust, competition and trade practice group. He is just one of Freshfields’ 10 partners who practise in Germany, all of whom are Who’s Who Legal nominees. The team includes four counsel, five senior consultants, 13 senior associates and 30 associates.
The team managed a mix of complex merger control and behavioural cases, and defends clients in numerous court proceedings. Last year, it advised multinational cable company Liberty Global in its €3.16 billion acquisition of rival Kabel Baden-Württemberg, which was cleared by the German authority with far-reaching commitments and is now under appeal. Liberty Global had retained Freshfields’ after the firm helped the company complete another €3.5 billion German cable company acquisition two years ago. Klusmann counselled ThyssenKrupp in the company’s €2.7 billion sale of its stainless steel business unit Inoxum to Outokumpu, a deal that faced heavy scrutiny by the European Commission.
Partners Gerhard Wiedemann and Tobias Klose represented E.ON Ruhrgas in an EU appeal against a DG Comp decision alleging a market sharing agreement with Gaz de France. The company won a fine reduction of about €230 million, one of the largest ever. ThyssenKrupp also turned to Freshfields for advice in a complex investigation by the cartel office and the state prosecutor regarding collusion in the railway material sector. Part of the allegations were settled for €124 million, while partner Uta Itzen continues to work on the remaining case and on follow-on claims brought by customers such as Deutsche Bahn. Solvay also relies on Freshfields for advice in follow-on lawsuits.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has the strongest competition practice of any international law firm in Italy aside from Cleary Gottlieb. Its head Tommaso Salonico and its second partner Gian Luca Zampa, both former authority officials, are Who’s Who Legal nominees. Freshfields is also the go-to firm for energy companies that require antitrust advice, many say. Competitors describe Salonico as an “energy guru” and “quasi-monopolist among energy clients”. He splits his time between regulatory and antitrust work. The Rome-based team is completed by 11 associates, including Roberto Amore, who is due to open an antitrust outpost in Milan. This year, Freshfields lost experienced senior associate Alessandro Greco to Eversheds.
The group advised 2iGas and E.ON in an investigation of alleged bid rigging in the gas distribution market and defended utility A2A and energy company Iren from separate allegations of abuse of dominance and price fixing. The team represented Deutsche Bahn and its subsidiary Schenker in the freight forwarding cartel investigation and following appeal – which set an important precedent in the interpretation of Italy’s leniency policy. It advised Siemens in its successful appeal against the authority’s bid-rigging decision regarding magnetic resonance equipment. On the merger side, the group advised retailer Billa in a Phase II acquisition.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is among the best firms in the world for competition and the firm’s Tokyo practice is no exception. The team includes special counsel and Who’s Who Legal nominee Akinori Uesugi, who is the former secretary general of the JFTC. He works alongside partners Takeshi Nakao and Kazuki Okada and five associates. Okada is also part of the firm’s litigation practice.
Like most of Japan’s international firms, Freshfields’ antitrust team has a raft of major clients from around the world that keep it busy, but it can also count numerous high-profile domestic companies among its client base: Asahi Glass, JX Nippon Oil & Energy, Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Chemical to name a few.
The team recently advised Mitsubishi Chemical on multi-jurisdictional merger control filings for a Korean joint venture with Posco Chemtech and Mitsubishi Corporation and Bristol-Myers Squibb on the antitrust aspects of its strategic alliance with Ono Pharmaceutical to co-develop and co-commercialise an anti-rheumatoid arthritis therapy in Japan.
The team also handled a third-party complaint in relation to a potential unilateral conduct case in the technology industry.
Merger work has kept the team busy, not least representing Essent, the Netherlands’ largest utility, in its €9.3 billion acquisition by German rival RWE. Freshfields is also handling the acquisition of TNT Post by UPS.
The firm’s cartel practice is equally busy. Freshfields is acting for Ceres in its appeal against fines imposed by the NMa on baking flour producers and is extensively involved in many of the cartel follow-on damage claim proceedings that are being brought in the Netherlands. The firm is also continuing to advise ABN Amro in relation to its continuing integration with Fortis Bank, and in state aid matters.
Freshfields is also acting for Dutch insurance company ING in its appeal before the European Courts in state aid proceedings, after a European Commission decision was set aside by the EU General Court, because it had determined the size of the support in an incorrect manner. The European Commission will now have to make a new judgment.
Who’s Who Legal nominee Alexander Viktorov is now the sole head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Moscow competition group, which he has co-led since 2005. Supporting Viktorov are an associate and a paralegal who work full-time on competition matters.
The team has worked on several high-profile global deals over the past year or so, including advising UPS on its acquisition of TNT Express, acting for industrial manufacturer Terex on its bid for Demag Cranes, and advising power and automation company ABB in its merger filings before the FAS. Other regular clients include Barclays Bank, Solvay and Russian Railways.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s strong Spanish competition practice is led by partner Francisco Cantos, a nominee to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists. He works together with partner Álvaro Iza, three senior associates and six associates in the Madrid and Barcelona offices, respectively. Last year, the firm hired associate Carolina Luna, previously at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Brussels.
One of the first international law firms to gain a strong foothold in the Spanish market, Freshfields has had a presence in some of the highest profile cases of the year. Cantos advised Hewlett-Packard in its abuse of dominance complaint against Oracle, an international case spanning across multiple jurisdictions. He also worked for telecoms company Abertis, which was investigated for alleged margin squeeze by the CNC and over state aid measures by the European Commission. Iza defended media group Mediapro against multiple abuse of dominance allegations regarding football broadcasting rights. He also advised another media company, Imagina, in the acquisition of control of TV channel La Sexta, and later in its merger with rival broadcaster Antena 3.
The antitrust team advised ferry company Balearia, in two cartel investigations in the maritime transportation market. The company applied for leniency and obtained a fine reduction, and later also appealed against the decision at the Audiencia Nacional, the first instance appeals court. Freshfields also helped Linpac Group obtaining immunity from a €8.5 million fine in a fruit and vegetable package cartel.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s antitrust, competition and trade practice is one of the very best in Europe, if not the world. The team, which includes 16 partners, one consultant, eight senior associates and 28 associates, is led by Rod Carlton. No fewer than eight of the firm’s London partners are nominees to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists, including competition litigation head, Jon Lawrence.
Despite a continuing slowdown in merger activity, Freshfields has had a busy year – both in deal work and behavioural matters. Most notably, perhaps, the firm represented the London Stock Exchange as a third party on the antitrust and merger control issues arising from the ultimately blocked merger between Deutsche Börse and NYSE/Euronext, and on the UK Competition Commission’s inquiry into the proposed BATS Trading/Chi-X Europe merger.
The Freshfields team also represented water company South Staffordshire on the Competition Commission reference following its acquisition of Cambridge Water. This was the first water to water merger in the UK provisionally cleared unconditionally by the commission in May 2012.
The firm is advising Deloitte on the Competition Commission’s “Big Four” investigation of the UK auditing market and publisher Pearson on the investigations by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the European Commission of horizontal and vertical issues around the use of agency agreements in the e-books sector.
Finally, Freshfields is advising ABB in its defence of a £230 million claim by National Grid Electricity Transmission against the European participants in the gas insulated switchgear cartel.
United States: Government Antitrust
After helping put the final touches on United Airlines’ 2010 merger with rival Continental, the US practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has again secured major work on headline cases in the US and globally. Led by Who’s Who Legal nominee Paul Yde, the team this year advised EMI Group in the sale of its recorded music business to a consortium that included Sony, and it has taken the lead for publisher Hachette Book Group in the DoJ’s investigation of the e-books industry. Other major clients include Hewlett-Packard, PepsiCo and its subsidiary, Frito-Lay.