GCR 100 - 18th Edition


12 January 2018

Merger ranking - Litigation ranking - Cartel ranking -
Global head Nigel Parr
Number of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team 6
Practice size 64
Partners 17
Counsel 12
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal 17%
Associates 35
Lateral partner hires 0
Partner departures 1
Former senior enforcers 4

The Intel case, sent back to the General Court by the European Court of Justice after the lower court failed to assess the European Commission’s case properly, is the kind of work to which the chipmaker’s counsel Ashurst gravitates. The firm may not have the largest practice in the Global Elite, but it picks up challenging matters and, by all accounts, handles them excellently. It also has a stable team – Melbourne partner Alice Muhlebach was the only senior lawyer to leave this year, to join the independent bar.

As an example of the kind of complicated deal that Ashurst is able to steer expertly, take Cardtronics/DirectCash Payments. Cardtronics tapped the firm to handle UK Competition and Markets Authority proceedings after another firm had notified the merger – an inauspicious start. But the case has gone relatively smoothly ever since: in Phase I, Ashurst convinced the UK agency to change its initial view that the deal could lead to national competitive harm, and after a Phase II review raising concerns about 848 local overlaps, the deal went on to receive full, unconditional clearance. Abuse of dominance is a clear strength for the firm, which got a good result for Intel in the ECJ as the company fights its €1 billion European Commission fine, leading to what was perhaps the year’s most-discussed European court ruling that touches on competition law. The firm is also breaking new ground in UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom’s only antitrust case; the government body suspects that alleged Royal Mail price discrimination violates EU laws. In France, partner Christophe Lemaire – alongside Linklaters – acted for ENGIE in persuading the national antitrust enforcer to accept commitments to end an investigation of alleged predatory pricing. Ashurst is also on the team for Google in DG Comp’s Android investigation.

Cartel work is perhaps the weakest end of Ashurst’s global operations, but it has some interesting cases on the docket. A Brussels team acted for CBR/HeidelbergCement in the Belgian cement cartel investigation, which led to the Brussels Court of Appeal quashing fines issued in the investigation. Markit is also an Ashurst client: the firm represented the broker in the European Commission’s credit default swaps probe, where the enforcer continued to investigate brokers after dropping its case against a slew of banks. DG Comp ultimately accepted commitments and ended the investigation. Ashurst’s strong Australian practice also has a good bunch of cases on the go, but they are mostly confidential.

Football fans should keep an eye on Ashurst’s litigation efforts. It represents UEFA in French and Belgian litigation regarding its financial fair play and third-party ownership rules. An Italian team defends Total against an antitrust claim by Alitalia. In Australia, the firm had a hand in a case that saw Glencore request a Competition Tribunal declaration that the Port of Newcastle is an essential facility. Ashurst acted for the National Competition Council as an amicus in that case; the body is charged with first-instance recommendations on such access decisions.

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