GCR 100 - 10th Edition

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

14 January 2010

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is once again rated as the best firm in the world for antitrust.

1. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Global heads: David Aitman and Helmut Bergmann
Home jurisdiction: United Kingdom and Germany
Total size of firm: 2,539
Number of competition specialists: 261
Percentage of competition specialists: 10
Who’s Who nominees: 30
Partners: 51
Percentage of partners in Who’s Who: 59
Senior associates: 33
Associates: 139
Counsel: 10
Other: 33
Number of lateral partner hires: 1
Number of partner departures: 2
Number of internal promotions: 1

With more Who’s Who nominees than anyone else, a nearly unrivalled geographic spread of specialists, and this year, more rivals’ votes than any other firm, the competition practice continues to carry all before it. With a presence in all the major antitrust jurisdictions, the firm can claim to be the leading firm in Germany for competition, and one of the top handful in Brussels, London, Austria, the Netherlands and Spain. Unusually for a European-headquartered firm, Freshfields also boasts a solid presence in the US; its Washington, DC office has some high-profile partners, though MJ Moltenbrey left in 2009 to join Howrey LLP. The firm also seems to have stolen a march on some of its rivals in China. It has built a well-respected practice in the country and recently made up its first Chinese competition partner.

Practice leaders David Aitman and Helmut Bergmann are responsible for Europe’s largest antitrust practice - and the third-largest globally. The firm has also seemingly done well in the economic downturn. Cartel instructions continue apace, and where there have been mergers, Freshfields has often been involved, and it has even picked up some interesting state aid assignments, notably from the Bank of England, Northern Rock and ABN Amro.

Austria

Who's Who nominee Axel Reidlinger leads Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's Austrian competition practice.

Although Freshfields' team is the smallest of the three firms in the "elite" category, with one partner, one senior associate and three associates, as part of a large international firm it can punch well above its weight.

In 2009, Freshfields advised Styria Medien and Moser Holding, two publishing houses, in Austrian merger control proceedings regarding their joint venture for weekly free newspapers. The deal, which received phase II clearance without remedies, created Austria's largest media company.

The firm continues to represent UNO shopping centre, a subsidiary of Bank Austria Real Invest, in litigation proceedings before the Austrian Cartel Court against a major competitor regarding an allegedly anti-competitive "radius clause" in tenancy agreements. It's also advising Interseroh, a German recycling group, on the competition aspects of its Austrian market entry before the European Commission and the Austrian Federal Competition Authority.

Freshfields say the Austrian team is working with "a major Austrian bank" in European state aid proceedings, and "various Austrian and international clients in cartel cases before the Austrian competition authorities".

Other clients include Brenntag, ThyssenKrupp and Gruner+Jahr.

Brussels

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP also fields an impressive team in Brussels, with 12 partners, one counsel, one of counsel and 35 associates. The team is led by David Broomhall, one of nine nominees to Who's Who. The group celebrated the 20th anniversary of the opening of its Brussels office in September.

The Brussels competition group undoubtedly benefits from the firm's strong London team, which sends a lot of mergers its way, though the Brussels practice generates much of its own work. It has steered mergers past the European Commission on behalf of BASF, Iberia and ConocoPhillips.

Recently, the Freshfields team says it has handled an unprecedented number of state aid cases, triggered by the financial crisis. It advised the Bank of England on the rescue package for Bradford & Bingley, and German bank BayernLB on emergency aid granted by the commission.

The firm has been involved in several prominent behavioural cases before the commission, including the air cargo, freight forwarding, electronics and chemicals investigations. It is also defending ThyssenKrupp against damages claims brought by the European Commission as a result of the elevators cartel investigation. The case marks the first time the commission has ever brought a private complaint against a cartelist.

Other clients include France Telecom and Visa Europe, both of which have faced abuse of dominance allegations from DG Comp.

France

After a challenging couple of years, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is starting to bounce back. Maria Trabucchi joined the firm from Weil Gotshal & Manges' Paris office, along with one senior associate and three associates in October. Who's Who nominee Jérôme Philippe leads the team.

The practice continues to handle a large amount of cartel and other behavioural work. It is representing Hewlett-Packard in litigation against consumer association UFC Que Choisir, which accuses the company of abuse of dominance. Another client is Laboratoires Pierre Fabre, which it is defending in relation to its alleged refusal to allow internet sales by members of its selective distribution network.

In the state aid field, the firm represented Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations on the creation of an investment fund. The European Commission investigated the French government's input into the fund to decide whether it constituted state aid. It also represented CDC on its acquisition of Groupe Socotec.

Finally, the firm acted for private equity fund L Capital on the sale of video game retailer Micromania to American retailer GameStop.

Germany

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is the leading competition practice in Germany, named by almost every other firm as the one they most aspire to. Its size, the calibre of its personnel and its geographical range mean the firm stands alone. If there's a large deal, Freshfields tends to work on it; if there's a cartel case, you can bet the firm represents a defendant.

Helmut Bergmann leads the 10-partner group in Germany, which is supported by one of counsel, one counsel, one consultant and 42 associates shared between offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Cologne. Four German partners in Brussels, including Frank Montag, also work closely with the lawyers in Germany. The practice boasts five nominees in The International Who's Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists, more than any other firm in Germany.

Gerhard Wiedemann, Martin Klusmann and Burkhard Richter in Düsseldorf are some of the most respected lawyers in the country, while Bergmann is also highly rated. Of the younger generation, Tobias Klose gains plaudits.

In the past year, the group has worked on several key German matters. It represented Continental regarding Schaeffler's acquisition of control over Continental, advised Chiquita on cartel proceedings before the European Commission, settled the long-running "ice cream litigation" for Mars against Unilever, represented four originator companies in the European Commission's pharmaceutical sector inquiry, and worked for Holcim in the first German class action-type damages proceeding.

Italy

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's competition practice is led by partner and Who's Who nominee Tommaso Salonico. He works alongside partner Gian Luca Zampa and 10 associates, all of whom are based in Rome. The team is supplemented, where appropriate, by a further two partners and four associates specialising in litigation, civil and private actions and appeals against authority decisions.

The team reports that merger work has been "really quiet" of late but the competition practice is nonetheless still thriving, with 2009 proving the strongest fiscal year to date. Gazprom, Assicurazioni Generali, Bayer, Philips, Deutsche Bahn and Iberia are all regular clients of the firm, which has developed a particular specialism in Italy handling cases that involve both antitrust and regulatory issues. "The two go hand-in-hand," says Zampa. "The underlying concepts are often the same, and demand the same understanding of the industry."

Cartel cases are also a top priority for the team, following "renewed activism" from the antitrust authority. It advised Sotheby's during a cartel investigation by the national antitrust authority, and represented Holcim in an appeal against a cartel ruling before Italy's Supreme Administrative Court.

On the EU level, the team has advised E.ON on numerous antitrust issues, as well as handling appeals by ThyssenKrupp, Cementir Italia and Nuova Terni Industrie Chimiche against state aid decisions handed down by the European Commission.

Japan

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's Tokyo office has grown in recent times. Freshfields made quite a splash in Japan's competition circles in 2006 when it hired Akinori Uesugi, former secretary general of Japan's Fair Trade Commission. Although the rules of the Japanese bar mean Uesugi, a Who's Who nominee, does not have his own clients, he is able to advise lawyers on strategy and Japanese competition law. His extensive knowledge of the JFTC, where he worked for 36 years, gives Freshfields the edge over most of its non-Japanese competition. Uesugi works with three partners, two senior associates and four associates.

The competition team has worked on the JFTC's marine hose case, together with international air fuel surcharge cartel investigations by other competition authorities. "I am also working on the ongoing air-forwarding business cartel investigations, and I was involved in the flat glass cartel investigations by the European Commission on Gleverbel," says Uesugi.

The firm also advised D&M Holdings, a Japan-listed manufacturer of audio and video systems, on global merger filings.

Regular clients of the firm include Japan Airlines, Dunlop Oil & Marine, Goldman Sachs PIA and NEC.

Netherlands

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also combines a large international network with a sizeable competition group. Who's Who nominee Onno Brouwer leads the competition team, which includes partner Winfred Knibbeler, eight associates and one counsel in Amsterdam. Nadiah Al-Ani joined the team in November 2009 as an associate, after spending three years at the competition authority.

The firm has worked on some of Europe's most important competition cases, including defending Shell against the European Commission's cartel investigation in the Dutch bitumen market. The case is now before the European Court of First Instance. It also represents ThyssenKrupp in its appeal before the CFI. The company was hit with a e480 million fine by the commission for its part in the elevators and escalators cartel.

This year, the firm has also advised Slovak Post against charges that it breached article 82 of the EC Treaty. It is advising Essent in its proposed merger with RWE and is representing Betfair in proceedings before the European Court of Justice and the District Court of The Hague.

Other clients include Ziggo, ING, Total, Japan Tobacco International and RTL.

Russia

Rivals say Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has a very visible competition practice in Russia. Co-heads Jacky Baudon and Alexander Viktorov work with two associates. The firm advises companies on antimonopoly issues such as pricing policies, mergers, administrative proceedings before the authority, and compliance programmes.

The firm represented Cerberus on acquiring clearance in Russia for Fiat to buy a controlling stake in Chrysler, in conjunction with aid from the US Treasury. Mars is also a client - the team advised the company on the Russian competition aspects of its acquisition of Wrigley. It also acted for Nomura in its acquisition of Lehman Brothers' Russian operations and Zurich Financial Services on its purchase of a stake in Zurich Retail Insurance. Finally, it worked on Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of EDS.

Spain

Spanish practitioners say that foreign firms have a growing presence in the market, and the team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer stands out above the rest. In fact, several high-profile practitioners at traditional Spanish firms say that Francisco Cantos and his team at Freshfield's Madrid office have made such inroads into the Spanish market that it seems like a Spanish firm in the eyes of many prominent companies.

Cantos and the Freshfields team have, over the past several years, catapulted themselves into the first tier of Spanish competition practices. In 2007, they represented companies in five of the country's six phase II merger investigations. They also played a crucial role in one of the year's most high-profile Spanish investigations - representing Mediapro in a football television rights investigation, and in a conflict with Sogecable over those rights. The firm has also represented Spanish airline Iberia in a number of competition matters, as well as Costa Crociere, Osborne and others. With the promotion of highly-regarded associate Álvaro Iza to partner and the firm's extensive presence in Europe and other major markets, Cantos says he expects the Madrid practice to continue attracting top-notch clients and complex work. Many competitors agree. Cantos is nominated in Who's Who and is part of Freshfield's elite five-lawyer antitrust steering committee.

United Kingdom

The London-based competition team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to be one of the strongest in the country. Led by Rod Carlton and featuring six nominees in The International Who's Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists, the team continues to work on many of the UK's largest deals and investigations. The firm's litigation team, led by partner Jon Lawrence, is among the strongest in the country. The firm saw some changes among its partnership in 2009. Partner and Who's Who nominee Alex Potter moved back to London after spending the bulk of last year leading the competition team at the firm's Beijing office. Taking his place is London partner Nicholas French, who will practise in Beijing along with partner Michael Han. Plus, late this year, London/Brussels partner Rachel Brandenburger left to become a special advisor at the US Department of Justice. The Freshfields team has been at the forefront of competition cases arising from the financial crisis. It advised Northern Rock on its bailout from the UK government, and the Bank of England on the implications of Lloyd's contentious acquisition of HBOS. The firm has also been deeply involved in the OFT's sector investigations, including acting for Tesco in the groceries investigation and Northern Rock in the PPI investigation. Other competition clients have included Bayer, The London Stock Exchange, BAA, Dunlop Oil and Marine, Live Nation and ITV.

US: Governmental Antitrust

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP established an antitrust practice in Washington, DC in 2002. The team includes practice head and partner Robert Schlossberg, who has chaired the M&A committee of the American Bar Association's antitrust division, and partner Paul Yde, who spent time at the Federal Trade Commission and now handles a great deal of federal antitrust investigations. Both are nominated in Who's Who alongside counsel Terry Calvani, who served as an FTC commissioner for seven years and later headed the criminal cartels division of Ireland's Competition Authority. Partner MJ Moltenbrey left the firm in July to join the partnership at Howrey LLP.

This year, the DC team handled K&S's acquisition of Morton Salt from The Dow Chemical Company, which created the world's largest salt producer. It also advised Continental Airlines on its entry to the Star Alliance, alongside United Airlines.

The team represents BASF on its takeover by speciality chemical company Ciba Holding, which has been subject to review by the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of competition. It also advised Cengage Learning during the DoJ's review of its takeover of Houghton Mifflin College.

On the behavioural side, Freshfields is acting for a multinational bank in the DoJ investigation of credit derivatives.

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