GCR 100 - 15th Edition

Covington & Burling

04 December 2014

Covington & Burling is back with a vengeance in Brussels.

Merger ranking - Cartel ranking -
Global heads Deborah Garza, Thomas Barnett, Johan Ysewyn
Number of jurisdictions with a competition team 2
Practice size 67
Partners 24
Counsel 5
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal 3
Associates 38
Lateral partner hires 4
Internal partner promotions 0
Partner departures 1
Former enforcers 8

One year ago, after a couple of high-profile departures, the firm’s European practice looked shaky, but the arrival of Belgian and EU guru Johan Ysewyn from Clifford Chance, and return of Peter Camesasca, Samsung’s trusted Brussels lieutenant, has put the wind back in Covington’s sails. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, the firm has hired another big hitter in Philip Warren. Head of the DoJ’s San Francisco antitrust office from 2002, Warren joins an antitrust team rich in former senior enforcement officials. This is an exciting time for Covington and all eyes are on the firm to see how these major changes play out. Certainly, the potential is there for an already strong practice to rise even further.

Covington advised on some stellar mergers last year. Brussels partner Miranda Cole acted in the two standout technology deals – Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia’s devices and services unit and Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp. The former was Microsoft’s second-largest ever acquisition, requiring notification across an impressive range of jurisdictions, including China, all coordinated by Covington. The Facebook deal, meanwhile, was impressive because it received EU clearance in spite of the high market shares of the parties. The firm also advised Verizon Communications on its $130 billion purchase of Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Communications and AstraZeneca on its acquisition of sole control of two diabetes joint ventures with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Covington also has some interesting, though confidential, cartel cases and a few litigation matters. As counsel to Microsoft, meanwhile, it is closely involved in the Google antitrust investigation.

Brussels

Covington & Burling has had its share of ups and downs in recent times. The Brussels competition team suffered the departure of three partners to rival firms in fairly short succession, leaving three partners – including Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominated Miranda Cole and Damien Geradin – and two counsel. However, the firm recently announced the re-hire of Peter Camesasca, who spent the last two years working primarily for Samsung, and Johan Ysewyn, a Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee who joins from Clifford Chance with a group of associates. Both additions promise to make impressive contributions to the practice in terms of expertise and the clients they bring in.

The firm has been involved in some particularly large and complex deals in recent months. Cole acted for Microsoft in its purchase of Nokia’s devices and services business, coordinating clearances in over 17 jurisdictions. She is also advising Facebook in its acquisition of WhatsApp, which was filed before the Commission in a bid to avoid a host of national antitrust battles; AstraZeneca in its US$4.3 billion acquisition of its joint ventures with Bristol-Myers Squibb; and Verizon Communications in its purchase of Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless. On the cartel side, Geradin is acting for Samsung in its appeal against the Commission’s CRT cartel decision, while Camesasca will continue to advise the Korean company in several ongoing cartel investigations and follow-on claims. The firm is also strong on state aid work, something that will be further enhanced by the addition of Ysewyn who is acting on several matters including on behalf of the Belgian government.

United States: Washington, DC

By virtue of both the antitrust group’s work and its immense talent, Covington & Burling has entrenched itself among the top competition practices in the city. Over the past five years or so, the firm has revamped its antitrust group from the ground up, hiring practice co-leaders and Who’s Who Legal nominees Thomas O Barnett and Deborah Garza from the highest ranks of the DoJ’s antitrust division, then adding a talented group of lawyers from Howrey – including Who’s Who Legal-nominated counsel Alan M Wiseman. The team continued to expand its DC partnership last year, electing in-house candidates Ashley Bass, Andrew Lazerow and Anne Lee.

Barnett has been acting for headline client Expedia, which has been leading the way against online search leader Google’s alleged anti-competitive conduct, and has been targeted in private litigation for allegedly striking deals with hotel groups to set minimum prices for rooms booked online. Barnett won GCR USA’s “Litigator of the Week” award for prevailing on a motion to dismiss in early 2014. The firm is also advising Facebook in a range of matters, including helping the social network clear its buyout of WhatsApp.

Covington lawyers secured victory in two of the most high-profile antitrust litigations of 2014, first persuading a Chicago federal judge to reverse an earlier ruling and dismiss over $1 billion worth of antitrust damages claims by Motorola, and then more recently securing dismissal of aluminium warehousing class actions. DC partner Robert Wick led on both files for Samsung and JP Morgan respectively, and certainly made his mark this year. Wick and partners Robert Long and Derek Ludwin continue to represent Samsung as Motorola appeals its loss before the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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