GCR 100 - 11th Edition

Howrey LLP

24 January 2011

Howrey has the world's largest competition practice.

3. Howrey LLP

Global heads: Sean FX Boland and Alan Wiseman
Home jurisdiction: United States
Total size of firm: 550
Number of competition specialists: 313
Percentage of competition specialists: 57
Who's Who nominees: 18
Partners: 70 equity, 44 non-equity
Percentage of partners in Who's Who: 26
Senior associates: 32
Associates: 110
Counsel: 8
Other: 49
Number of lateral partner hires: 2
Number of partner departures: 6
Number of internal promotions: n/a

Though the headcount is down slightly on last year's figures, the firm's antitrust team continues to outweigh those of its rivals. Size isn't always everything, but in Howrey's case it means the firm can field heavyweight teams in Washington and Brussels as well as sizeable practices in 15 other cities worldwide.

The firm lost six partners this year, three of which were in Brussels. But Howrey also saw the return of Chuck Webb, who had spent several years at the helm of Jersey's Competition and Regulatory Authority. Meanwhile, Cleary Gottlieb partner Shaun Goodman moved to Howrey in 2010, joining Tom McQuail in the firm's expanding London office.

Shortly before going to press other departures were announced, in both the US and Europe.

Howrey has worked on some of the year's most high-profile oil matters. The firm represented long-time client Smith International in its US$11 billion transaction with Schlumberger. Despite substantial scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic, the Department of Justice and DG Comp cleared the deal in July. And when Baker Hughes bought BJ Services, Howrey steered the oil field services company through a substantial investigation by the DoJ.

Howrey's portfolio of contentious work is enormous. Among other matters, it is advising United Airlines in the DG Comp's investigation of an alleged air cargo cartel and Trelleborg in its appeal to the European General Court of an EC decision imposing a €25 million fine for breach of article 101 in the marine hose cartel case.

Howrey's successfully represented Schering-Plough (now Merck & Co) in the K-Dur antitrust litigation, a "reverse payment" case that highlights the firm's litigation capabilities, particularly where antitrust and intellectual property law intersect. Howrey also successfully obtained dismissal on summary judgment of Exxon Mobil Corporation in a case alleging the company conspired to fix the price of natural gas.

Brussels

It has not been the easiest of years for Howrey LLP, the firm that is renowned for taking the Brussels antitrust world by storm since it entered the European market less than nine years ago. First, the firm took a highly publicised financial hit in 2009. The Brussels office then lost three antitrust partners early in 2010, before the majority of its intellectual property group left in October to set up a boutique firm. Among the competition departures, Peter Camesasca left to join Covington & Burling LLP in March owing to conflict issues raised by his largest client. Partner Lars Kjølbye followed in June, and the firm lost Martina Maier to McDermott Will & Emery LLP in August. Antitrust practice head Trevor Soames remains confident that the practice is steering itself out of turbulent waters*. “We are in a process of transition, but we are focusing on our work, on our clients, and on recovering our core values to restore and stabilise the team,” he says. “We have some excellent associates who are independently bringing in new clients and business is good.” Rivals agree that it’s not all doom and gloom: “They have been in turmoil, but for a relatively new entrant, the firm is still doing very well,” says Gerwin Van Gerven of Linklaters LLP. Another practitioner likens Soames to a “great striker”, but says he needs to build his team up around him.

Despite the tough times, the firm worked on some big cases in Brussels over the past 12 months. Soames and co-practice head Götz Drauz represented Microsoft before the European Commission, which in December accepted commitments from the company designed to boost competition in the web browser market. The team also acted for Qualcomm when DG Comp decided to close its case against the chipmaker in November 2009. Howrey continues to advise the company in a complaint brought by Icera alleging abuse of dominance in relation to 3G mobile broadband devices. This year, the firm represented United Airlines on its EU clearance to merge with Continental, and continues to represent Slovak Telekom against DG Comp in a case alleging refusal to deal and margin squeeze in the Slovak broadband sector.

The team now has 11 partners and 14 associates in Brussels. It had 17 and 21 respectively last year. Shortly before going to press, partner and Who’s Who nominee Damien Geradin departed the firm to join Covington & Burling LLP.

*In January 2011, shortly before going to press, Trevor Soames departed Howrey.

France

Claude Lazarus's arrival at Howrey LLP last October has put the firm resolutely on the competition map in Paris. Lazarus joined with partner Audrey Amsellem to launch the practice, and the team now consists of six lawyers.

The firm represented Macif, Maif and Matmut, the three major players in the French insurance sector, before the Competition Authority in the creation of a joint venture. The deal was cleared in June at phase I.

Lazarus assisted EDF in its merger filing to the European Commission to acquire control of SPE, in the Belgian energy market. The firm also counselled EDF in an antitrust procedure before the European Commission, regarding its long-term contracts with large industrial customers in France. The European Commission accepted EDF's commitments in March and the case was closed. The practice is advising several other clients on dawn raids and cartel litigation.

Spain

Howrey Martínez Lage has been a force on the Spanish market since January 2008, when Howrey LLP snapped up Spain's premier antitrust boutique Martínez Lage, creating a competition powerhouse with "more facilities and more power than ever before". Practice head Santiago Martinez Lage is nominated to the Who's Who, along with both his partners: Rafael Allendesalazar and Helmut Brokelmann. They are supported by four senior associates and two associates.

Over the last year, the firm has been active in a wide range of competition matters. It handled Brambles' acquisition of competitor IFCO. It is representing Wella, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, in an investigation by the Spanish Competition Authority on the potentially restrictive effects of an exchange of information scheme. It is representing Pavasal during the Spanish Competition Commission's investigation of possible cartel in the public works sector. The firm is also advising France Telecom España on Telefonica's appeal before the European General Court against the European Commission's 2007 margin squeeze decision and before a commercial court in Madrid in a follow-on damages action.

Other clients include Buena Vista Spain, Walt Disney Company Iberia, Distribuidora de TV Digital and SGAE.

United State: California

The California-based antitrust team at Howrey LLP is spread between East Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Irvine, and handles an impressive docket of antitrust cases. The team is advising six plaintiffs against Netflix and Walmart in a case alleging a conspiracy in the online DVD rental market, guiding Union Pacific Railroad Company in more than 25 putative class actions surrounding an alleged rail freight surcharge conspiracy, and Philips Electronics in class actions surrounding a cathode ray tube cartel. Other clients include Qualcomm, YRC Worldwide, Nestlé and MeadWestvaco.

United States: Government Antitrust

Howrey LLP has the largest antitrust practice in Washington, DC with close to 40 partners, eight of whom are nominated to the Who's Who, including Sean F X Boland and Alan M Wiseman who co-chair the antitrust group. The team divides its time evenly between antitrust litigation and government investigations. 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.

Howrey also has a busy transactional practice. This year, it steered through Smith International's merger with Schlumberger, as well as handling Baker Hughes' takeover of BJ Services. Nestlé is one of many household names on the firm's books. This year, the company sold its majority interest in Alcon, a global leader in eye care, to Novartis, and it acquired Kraft Foods' frozen pizza business. MedServe, Arch Coal and Schering Plough all relied on the firm for transactional advice in 2010.

On the litigation front, Howrey is defending Union Pacific Railroad Company in over 25 putative class actions brought by direct and indirect purchasers of railroad freight services, as well as representing Schering-Plough in the K-Dur antitrust litigation.

The firm won dismissal of a price-fixing case against client Exxon Mobil, as well as obtaining dismissal of monopolisation claims levied again Xerox Corporation.

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