GCR 100 - 10th Edition

Howrey LLP

14 January 2010

Howrey once again boasts the largest competition practice in our survey.

3. Howrey LLP

Global heads: Sean FX Boland, Alan Wiseman and Trevor Soames
Home jurisdiction: United States
Total size of firm: 710
Number of competition specialists: 350
Percentage of competition specialists: 49
Who’s Who nominees: 18
Partners: 70 equity, 49 non-equity
Percentage of partners in Who’s Who: 26
Senior associates: 27
Associates: 131
Other: 73
Number of lateral partner hires: 5
Number of partner departures: 4
Number of internal promotions: 3

Though Washington, DC, remains the firm’s stronghold, Brussels, and increasingly Madrid, Paris and London, also host impressive competition teams. Indeed, Howrey’s Brussels practice is ranked in the top four in that city, while it is also in the elite category in Washington, DC. This year’s hire of Claude Lazarus from Clifford Chance LLP in Paris signals a determined move into the French market. Lazarus is one of the country’s best-known competition lawyers. Howrey has been one of the more acquisitive firms during the economic downturn, making significant hires in the US and Europe.

As well as acquiring top personnel, Howrey has also picked up some top clients in the past year. Microsoft called when DG Comp took a tough line, and the firm’s IP focus has stood it in good stead representing chipmaker Qualcomm in the European Commission’s investigation of that company. Schering-Plough and United Airlines are other major clients. Howrey’s reputation for aggressive dealings with competition agencies ensures that when companies need to go to war, they pick up the phone. And increasingly, the firm is winning the respect of its peers. After Freshfields and Cleary, it got more votes than any other firm from rivals; last year, it was the fifth-most popular with other firms.

Brussels

Howrey LLP has been one of the most successful US firms in penetrating the Brussels market. Practice head Trevor Soames credits the collegiality of the partners with much of the group's success, although given that Soames launched the practice less than eight years ago, a good deal of that credit should go to him. Its 17 partners and two counsel consult closely on major cases, which allows them to exchange information effectively, and to do away with the traditional structure of one partner heading a team of associates.

Perhaps the biggest testament to the firm's excellent record this year was its instruction by Microsoft to handle the European Commission's investigation of the alleged tying of Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system. It is also defending Qualcomm against allegations of abuse of dominance in the licensing of wireless telecommunications technology and the sale of chipsets.

The Brussels practice, which includes Who's Who nominees Julian Joshua, Damien Geradin and Götz Drauz, among others, is also actively involved in several investigations before the European Commission, advising Samsung Electronics in the DRAM investigation and United Airlines in the air cargo cartel investigation. Meanwhile, it has steered through Anheuser-Busch's US$52 billion acquisition of Inbev and Schering-Plough's e11 billion acquisition of Akzo Nobel's human and animal health businesses.

Partner Michael Schütte left Howrey this year to set up his own firm.

Spain

Established Spanish firm Martínez Lage has for years been considered Madrid's premiere antitrust boutique, handling arguably more high-profile and in-depth behavioural cases than a handful of lesser competition practices combined. So when Howrey LLP, which has the world's largest antitrust practice, realised that Spain's new and improved enforcement regime would mean an expanded field of Spanish cases and clients, it looked to Martínez Lage as a possible merger partner.

In January 2008, Howrey snapped up the boutique, creating Howrey Martínez Lage. Managing partner Santiago Martínez Lage told GCR at the time that the merger added "more facilities and more power than ever before". Howrey Martínez Lage has one obvious advantage: expertise in intellectual property and litigation that few firms can match. With Spanish courts becoming more active in the enforcement of antitrust laws, having a litigation component within a practice is critical, practitioners say. Over the past year, the team has represented major companies such as Vodafone, Banco Santander, AstraZeneca, France Telecom and others. Three partners and seven associates handle the firm's Spanish competition work.

Competitors and enforcers here say that Martínez Lage has been, and remains, the go-to name for clients involved in cartel probes, abuse of dominance cases and other behavioural matters. Partner Helmut Brokelmann is a Who's Who nominee.

US: California

Howrey LLP is best known in Silicon Valley for its intellectual property practice, although antitrust continues to be an important part of its California operations. The firm's west coast antitrust practice is based in East Palo Alto, although it has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Irvine. Sean F X Boland and Alan M Wiseman in Washington, DC lead a team of 28 specialists, which includes 19 partners. In 2008, Paul Alexander joined the Palo Alto office from the now-dissolved Heller Ehrman.

The antitrust litigation docket is impressive: The team is representing six plaintiffs against Walmart and Netflix in online DVD-rental antitrust litigation. The team is also acting in the rail freight fuel surcharge case, defending Union Pacific Railroad Company in over 25 putative class actions. It is representing Philips Electronics North America Corporation in 15 nationwide class action lawsuits that allege a conspiracy among manufacturers of cathode ray tubes. It is also counsel to O2Micro International in several patent infringement actions brought against competitors and their customers. Another key client is YRC Worldwide.

US: Governmental Antitrust

At Howrey LLP, the antitrust team is keen to stress the strength and breadth of the firm's international practice. With 350 competition specialists based in 17 offices worldwide, the group's resources are impressive.

In DC, Sean F X Boland and Alan M Wiseman co-chair the antitrust group. Rivals point to James F Rill as a "star" name within the practice, which consists of a further six Who's Who nominees. MJ Moltenbrey joined Howrey's DC office this year from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. Moltenbrey also has experience at the DoJ's antitrust division, most recently as director of civil non-merger enforcement. Dimitri Nionakis also returned to the DC office from DLA Piper LLP.

The group divides its time evenly between antitrust litigation and government investigations. "We're not reliant on deals to keep the antitrust practice strong," says Wiseman. Nonetheless, the group has handled its share of mergers and acquisitions this year, advising Anheuser-Busch Company in its acquisition by InBev and handling Electronic Data Systems's $13.9 billion acquisition by Hewlett-Packard Company, one of the largest ever mergers in IT services. Howrey is also representing Schering-Plough in its merger with Merck & Co, a transaction valued at over $41 billion.

Critics say Howrey has a reputation for taking a tough stance with the antitrust authorities. But the firm argues that its willingness to fight, and to take cases to court, is another string to its bow - offering clients more options in negotiations with the FTC and DoJ.

On the litigation side, the firm won eight major antitrust class action cases this year, including representing YRC Worldwide, the largest trucking company in the US, against allegations of fuel surcharge price-fixing, and advising Union Pacific Railroad Company - the largest railroad company in the US - in the freight fuel surcharge antitrust litigation.

Howrey is representing Intel against allegations of monopolisation brought by rival AMD under section 2 of the Sherman Act. Other clients include Nestlé, Philips Electronics, Arch Coal, Eaton Corporation, Monsanto and Qualcomm.

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