GCR 100 - 14th Edition

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

03 December 2013

The outstanding antitrust team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has again found its way to the top of the Global Elite table. 

1. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Global heads:

Home jurisdiction: United Kingdom, Germany
Total size of firm: 2,621
No. of competition specialists: 266
Percentage of competition specialists: 10
Who’s Who Legal nominees: 43
Partners: 53
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who’s Who Legal: 62
Senior associates: 44
Associates: 139
Counsel and consultants: 17
Other: 0
No. of lateral partner hires: 0
No. of partner departures: 0
No. of internal promotions: 0

The outstanding antitrust team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has again found its way to the top of the Global Elite table. And for the second year running, the firm tops the table for the unprecedented number of its partners and consel to be elected to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists – a staggering 43 in all. That number represents nearly two-thirds of the antitrust practice group’s partnership and counsel roster, and three more than were nominated last year. It’s Who’s Who Legal membership is the clearest indication of its position in the market, and the primary reason is has maintained its position as the world’s top antitrust group. 

The quality of the practice is reflected by its considerable number of Who’s Who Legal nominees. The firm has top-ranked teams in multiple European jurisdictions, including Brussels, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, plus top teams in China and Japan and a thriving US practice that grew last year with the hire of former Federal Trade Commission attorney adviser Mary Lehner.

Freshfields’ antitrust work over the past year has been just as impressive as the firm’s extensive depth and geographic scope. It advised a party in seven of the 13 Phase II investigations DG Comp carried out in 2012, many of which required global coordination to ensure the deal was done. The group worked for UPS in its merger with TNT Express; Hutchinson 3G in its tie-up with Orange; EMI in its deal with Universal Music Group; and Synthes in the Johnson & Johnson transaction. All were major matters that required extensive antitrust work before they closed. Those are on top of its work for Xstrata in its merger with Glencore, which required regulatory approval in 15 jurisdictions around the world.

Elsewhere, the team is assisting companies with major behavioural antitrust investigations and has been active in some of the world’s premier cases: Libor, e-books, credit default swaps, oil and scores of others.

Austria

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Viennese team not only has enviable experience in cartel litigation and leniency, but has also worked on some of Austria’s most high-profile recent deals. Who’s Who Legal nominee Axel Reidlinger, one of the most highly regarded members of Austria’s competition bar, leads the practice, supported by five associates.

Reidlinger is acting for Deutsche Bahn-owned Schenker – the leniency applicant in the authority’s freight forwarding case – a matter now pending before the Austrian Supreme Court following a ruling by the ECJ. Much of the firm’s other behavioural work is confidential. The team is advising a gas company in three separate abuse case complaints relating to gas delivery contracts, and is acting for a company involved in DG Comp’s investigation of the rail freight sector in south-east Europe.

On the deal side, the Freshfields team was involved in one of Austria’s most complex matters last year, representing Hutchison 3G in its €1.3 billion acquisition of rival mobile telecoms operator Orange, which required clearances at both European and national level. The firm also acted for share­holders of furniture retailer kika Leiner in their €1.1 billion sale to South Africa’s Steinhoff, which was cleared by DG Comp and several national authorities. The firm also advised Sberbank of Russia on its acquisition of Volksbank International; the joint CEE banking operations of the Volksbanken group; and rubber and plastic manufacturer Semperit on its production joint venture with an Asian manufacturer.

Brussels

Led by David Broomhall, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is the other elite practice in Brussels with 11 partners. All of them are Who’s Who Legal nominees, including Who’s Who Legal “Global Competition Lawyer of the Year” Frank Montag and the former co-head of Freshfields’ antitrust, competition and trade group John Davies.

The firm has one of the larger antitrust teams in Brussels and advised parties in six of 13 phase II merger investigations carried out by the European Commission in 2012. Freshfields also worked on Hutchison Whampoa’s proposed €850 million takeover of Telefónica’s Irish mobile phone arm O2. The deal will reduce Ireland’s major mobile operators from four to three if approved. Freshfields partner Thomas Wessely is lead counsel.

Last December, mining company Rio Tinto Alcan, advised by Andrew Renshaw, agreed a settlement with the commission after a five-year abuse of dominance investigation of the company’s behaviour in the market for the licensing of aluminium smelting. Freshfields also advised mining company Xstrata on its US$64 billion merger with commodities trader Glencore in a deal that was examined across 15 jurisdictions including the European Union. DG Comp approved the merger on the condition Glencore made divestments in its zinc business.

France

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to impress under the leadership of Jérôme Philippe who, together with partner Maria Trabucchi, is a Who’s Who Legal nominee. The group has handled a series of multi-jurisdictional mergers over the last year, including advising Wolseley in the sale of assets to Chausson Matériaux and Total in spinning off French unit TIGF to a consortium of international buyers.

The firm represented Colgate-Palmolive and its subsidiary Hill’s Pet Nutrition in a case regarding vertical agreements in the pet nutrition industry, and is acting for GDF Suez subsidiary Dunamenti Eromu Zrt in state aid proceedings before the EU General Court. Freshfields is also advised Wendel in an eight-year litigation regarding the proposed annulment of a DG Comp decision approving its purchase of assets divested by Lagardère.

Germany

With 10 Who’s Who Legal nominees, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is firmly entrenched as one of Germany’s top competition firms. Global co-head Martin Klusmann leads the German practice, while partner Tobias Klose is head of the Düsseldorf antitrust team. Klose says the partnership’s strength across the spectrum of antitrust work is the key to its success. Burkhard Richter is a merger specialist, Peter Niggemann works on private litigation matters and Uta Itzen is heavily involved in some of the largest cartel and litigation cases in Germany. Frank Röhling became the eleventh partner in the firm’s German competition practice in May.

Klusmann successfully won conditional approval for steel company ThyssenKrupp’s €2.7 billion merger with rival Outokumpu, which the European Commission cleared at Phase II in 2012. The firm also advised ABB on its takeover of Power-One, an American solar and wind equipment maker, which was cleared by the European Commission in July. There are also several confidential ongoing cartel cases that Freshfields advises on, including the international auto parts cartel.

Freshfields advises on almost all large behavioural cases in Germany. Berlin partner Helmut Bergmann is regular counsel to Mars, which is involved in the confectionery cartel investigation. Klose and partner Gerhard Wiedemannrepresented E.ON before the EU General Court and won a €466 million reduction in fines for anti-competitive gas agreements.

Italy

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. Historically based out of Rome, the Italian antitrust practice now also has a permanent base in Milan.

The group advised regulated stock exchange Borsa Italiana on its acquisition of a majority stake in bond trading platform Euro TLX, and Cinven and Avio in the EU and US antitrust investigations of their merger. On behalf of E.ON, the firm secured the dismissal of the authority’s bid-rigging fine before the Court of First Instance. 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. The firm is also acting for LINPAC Group and Infia, launching an “Italian torpedo” on their behalf after the companies received damage requests from plaintiff lawyers. On the merger side, the group advised retailer Billa in a Phase II acquisition.

Japan

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is one of 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, former secretary general of the JFTC; he works alongside partners Takeshi Nakao and Kazuki Okada and five associates. The team recently advised Mitsubishi Chemical on multi-jurisdictional merger control filings for a Korean joint venture with Posco Chemtech and Mitsubishi Corporation, and Sumitomo Corporation on its joint venture with CJ Cheijedang Corporation regarding the production and sale of flour in Vietnam. Freshfields also handled more than 40 deals and ventures for Mitsui & Co over the past year, as well as a third-party complaint in relation to a potential unilateral conduct case in the technology industry.

Netherlands

Who’s Who Legal nominees Winfred Knibbeler and Onno Brouwer lead the elite competition practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Amsterdam office. The team also includes nine senior associates. Merger work has kept the team busy, not least representing distribution company UPS in its abortive bid for TNT. The case involved negotiating merger control procedures across the world, before European Commission prohibited it in January 2013.

The firm’s cartel practice is equally active. Freshfields acted for Shell in its successful appeal before the EU General Court in the Dutch bitumen cartel. Shell was the only appellant to receive a significant fine reduction.

Another client is media company Ziggo, which Freshfields advises in a case regarding regulation of the Dutch cable TV. In state aid, the firm continues to act for Dutch insurance company ING as it negotiates a settlement after a successful appeal led to the annulment of the General Court’s original decision.

Russia

At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, counsel Alexander Viktorov, a Who’s Who Legal-listed lawyer, heads the Moscow competition group. Two associates work alongside him and all work full-time on competition matters. The majority of this is merger work, Viktorov says, although at least a third of the team’s time is taken up by behavioural cases, compliance work, training and other matters. Whereas at one time the Moscow team’s work came almost exclusively from foreign clients referred from Freshfields’ extensive global network, now more than half the new work coming in is home-grown.

The team has worked on several high-profile matters over the past year or so, including advising Global Ports on its €1.2 billion acquisition of rival National Container Company, a deal that unites the two largest container handling businesses in Russia; and UPS on its ultimately abortive acquisition of TNT Express. Other regular clients include Barclays Bank, Solvay and Russian Railways.

Spain

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Spanish competition practice continues to flourish despite the challenging economic climate. The antitrust practice counts two full equity partners; practice head Francisco Cantos and partner Álvaro Iza, both nominees to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists, work alongside two senior associates and six associates spread across the Madrid and Barcelona offices.

One of the first international law firms to gain a foothold in the Spanish market, Freshfields counts a mixture of national and international companies as clients, this year adding Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and Spanish airport infrastructure company Aena to its books, advising the latter on its proposed purchase of London Luton airport.

The team has been involved in some of the most complex behavioural matters in Spain this year, including an impressive number of abuse of dominance defences. Cantos is advising Hewlett-Packard in its abuse complaint against Oracle, an international case spanning multiple jurisdictions, while Iza defended media group Mediapro in several interrelated broadcasting rights challenges. The team is also defending telecoms company Abertis against margin squeeze accusations, and E.ON energy in two abuse of dominance cases.

On the cartel side, Cantos is appearing for packaging company LINPAC in court proceedings at the Audiencia Nacional, the first instance appeals court, to protect a leniency application used to secure immunity from a €8.5 million fine. The team is also acting for L’Oréal in its appeal against the CNC’s €23 million fine of a cosmetics cartel, and advised ferry company Balearia in two cartel investigations in the maritime transportation market.

In deal work, the team advised media company Imagina in its acquisition of control of TV channel La Sexta, and its merger with rival broadcaster Antena 3. It is also acting for Holcim in its tie-up with Cemex, a deal which the CNC referred to the European Commission in October.

United Kingdom

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s antitrust, competition and trade practice is one of the best in Europe, if not the world. Rod Carlton leads the 16-partner team, which includes one consultant and 44 associates. No fewer than nine of the firm’s London partners – up one from last year – feature in Who’s Who Legal, including competition litigation head Jon Lawrence. Partner Andrea Gomes da Silva returned from a nine-month secondment to the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT), where she helped develop the new Competition and Markets Authority.

Freshfields has had yet another busy year, especially in transactional matters. The firm has been representing Invensys on EU and multi-jurisdictional aspects of its €4 billion acquisition by Schneider Electric. In April 2013, the European Commission unconditionally cleared a merger between publishing houses Penguin – a Freshfields client – and Random House. The firm guided Rank Group through its acquisition of rival Gala Casinos, securing unconditional clearance by the UK’s Competition Commission, in February.

USA: Government Antitrust

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s US antitrust boutique boasts an impressive five partners in Who’s Who Legal, including practice leader Paul Yde and former FTC head Terry Calvani. While the practice benefits from being part of close-knit global network, Yde says an increasing amount of the team’s work is homegrown, and the group has been involved in most non-criminal agency investigations of the last few years. They acted for Hachette in the e-book investigation and related damage claims, for Bank of America in the DoJ’s credit-default swaps investigation and negotiated a US$7.8 million settlement on behalf of Emirates in air cargo. On the merger side, Yde led a team advising EMI on the twin sales of its music publishing and recorded music businesses, while the team also acted for Xstrata in the US side of its US$39 billion sale to Glencore.

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