GCR 100 - 15th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

04 December 2014

In its second year in Global Elite, Norton Rose Fulbright maintained a broad practice, both geographically and in terms of types of antitrust work. Operating in 18 jurisdictions surveyed by GCR, the firm appears to have integrated its UK and US-based constituent parts to serve clients in mergers, cartel defence and follow-on litigation, and unilateral conduct matters.

Merger ranking - Cartel ranking -
Global head Martin Coleman
Number of jurisdictions with a competition team 18
Practice size 104
Partners 55
Counsel 9
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal 13
Senior associates 15
Associates 39
Lateral partner hires 3
Partner departures 3
Former enforcers 9

The team advised Life Technologies on its US$13.6 billion merger with Thermo-Fisher Scientific, which required remedies in the United States and EU. The firm’s offices in London, Brussels, Moscow, Toronto, Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo were all involved. The tie-up of global advertising groups Omnicom and Publicis may have unravelled, but Norton Rose Fulbright got South Africa’s competition commission to clear it in less than 20 business days. The firm’s Washington, DC office steered a merger between Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare through investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney general’s office. Both enforcers declined to take action, despite the FTC’s close eye on hospital tie-ups.

In cartels, Norton Rose Fulbright obtained immunity or leniency for several clients from enforcers in Canada, the EU, Australia, and France, as well as making leniency applications worldwide for a car parts manufacturer. It secured a major European bank’s removal from the European Commission’s credit default swaps investigation, and attended three dawn raids on behalf of companies. The firm proved itself again in the rough-and-tumble of US litigation, winning multiple cases for top clients.

Jay Modrall from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton joined the Brussels office in September 2013; Maxim Kleine from Oppenhoff came to the Hamburg group in October 2014. Mark Griffiths left a sought-after position as competition counsel at Barclays Africa in April 2014 to become a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Johannesburg practice. Of the three partner departures, one might be seen as a complement to the firm: Michael Grenfell left the London office in 2014 to take up the position of Senior Director responsible for regulated industries at the new Competition and Markets Authority.

Australia

In June 2013 Norton Rose combined with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski to create Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm boasts seven core competition partners across six cities, with three more partners working on competition alongside other practices. Experienced competition specialist and former ACCC counsel Nick McHugh leads the group. The team has advised on some of Australia’s most significant mergers over the past year. It acted for Life Technologies in the Australian branch of the global merger clearance required for Thermo Fisher and advised AAP, one of the most important companies in the Australian media market, on their sale to iSentia. The firm also defended JTEKT Corporation, a global bearings manufacturer, and its subsidiary Koyo Australia, in allegations brought by the ACCC of its involvement in a global cartel, and acts for the ACCC in several proceedings in the federal court, including those against Colgate Palmolive, PZ Cussons and Woolworths.

France

The competition team at Norton Rose Fulbright remains stable. Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee Mélanie Thill-Tayara leads the practice and is supported by partner Marta Giner. The team represents and advises HSBC in the European Commission’s investigation of the alleged conduct of seven European banks involved the manipulation of Euribor, and also defends Deutsche Bahn in a cartel procedure before the French Competition Authority. The firm continues to defend the company in litigation regarding a former subsidiary active in the chemicals sector. Norton Rose Fulbright is also counsel to Danish company FLSmidth, representing the company in both the industrial bag cartel probe and subsequent appeals.

South Africa

Norton Rose Fulbright had a very strong 2014, welcoming Mark Griffiths, former in-house counsel at Barclays to the antitrust practice, and promoting Lara Granville to the director position. Who’s Who Legal and GCR “40 under 40” nominee Heather Irvine leads the practice in South Africa.

The firm’s merger practice is thriving. Irvine and fellow director Anthony Crane last year led the representation of US consortium AgriGroupe in its purchase of South African agricultural company AFGRI, while Irvine and Rosalind Lake led the South African side of the Publicis/Omnicom merger – a deal that was cleared in South Africa in 20 business days but ultimately abandoned by the parties. Meanwhile, Irvine is also acting for three private investment funds – including the owner of a black empowerment group – in a joint acquisition of ExecuJet Airline Investments and part acquisition of Lanseria International Airport. On the behavioural side, the firm represented SAB’s appointed distributors in a long-running complaint by the Commission regarding the brewery’s distribution system, which the tribunal dismissed in March, while partner Marianne Wagener successfully defended the South African Poultry Association against a complaint about price fixing in the poultry industry and is working on the defence against new allegations of collusion.

United Kingdom

Norton Rose Fulbright’s highly regarded four-partner London competition team is led by partner and Who’s Who Legal nominee Martin Coleman, who is also the firm’s global practice head. Twelve associates complete the team, whose cross-border capabilities have increased enormously since Norton Rose merged with Fulbright & Jaworski in June last year. Partner Mark Jones left for Hogan Lovells in November 2013 and Michael Grenfell is now senior director for regulated industries at the CMA, but Mark Simpson was promoted to partner in May.

The firm is acting in the CMA’s two major investigations – in the energy and banking sectors – and some high-profile EU cases. Ian Giles represents First Utility, the country’s seventh-largest energy supplier and challenger to the “Big Six” suppliers. Coleman and Peter Scott act for accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, the biggest of the “Big Four” accountants in the United Kingdom. In its final decision, published in October 2013, the Competition Commission said changes needed to be made but shied away from radical interventions. Meanwhile, Giles guided through two complicated mergers: Life Technologies’ purchase of Thermo Fisher and – with Coleman – Delta’s acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in Virgin. Both received clearance across multiple jurisdictions, the former with conditions.

United States: Texas

Houston-founded stalwart Fulbright & Jaworski merged with UK firm Norton Rose to form Norton Rose Fulbright last June, with Layne E Kruse leading the Texas antitrust practice. Of counsel William R Pakalka and partner Darryl Anderson convinced a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit alleging illegal information exchange by client Sanjel, an energy service company. The Fulbright team negotiated a $3.5 million payout by ABX Logistics in the freight-forwarding class action, which was significantly less than what plaintiffs had sought. In antitrust litigation over title insurance, the firm successfully got claims against their client Stewart Title dismissed.

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