GCR 100 - 19th Edition

Ashurst

13 December 2018

Merger ranking 10 Litigation ranking - Cartel ranking 9
Global head Nigel Parr
No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team 6
Practice size 71
Partners 19
Counsel 10
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who’s Who Legal 24%
Associates 42
Lateral partner hires 1
Partner departures 0
Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel 3

Ashurst climbs three places in the Global Elite, from 16th last year to 13th in the latest rankings. That jump can be explained by its excellent record in cartels and deal work. Although it has a relatively modest competition practice in terms of size and geographic reach, it continues to handle complex work – much of which attracts headlines in the antitrust press. The firm is able to pack a punch disproportionate to the number of its competition partners, which was boosted in April 2018 with the hire of Michael Holzhäuser from DLA Piper in Germany.

The firm is leading on some important and challenging behavioural work, perhaps most notably having represented Intel in its successful appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the General Court’s decision in the rebates case. In September 2017, the ECJ quashed the European Commission’s abuse of dominance decision and the accompanying €1 billion fine – thought to be the enforcer’s first defeat in a dominance case since 1979 – and remitted the case back to the General Court. It also advises Royal Mail in a high-profile and rare abuse of dominance investigation by the UK’s communications regulator, which fined the postal company £50 million in August 2018. It defended Engie against a predatory pricing complaint by Direct Energie before France’s Competition Authority, with the company agreeing one of the first settlement procedures under the Macron law in September 2017.

In cartel work, the team defends an investment bank against five EU cartel probes, having attended a dawn raid on its behalf. It also represents a major tobacco manufacturer in probes in several EU member states. It secured discounts for Berendsen in the UK’s laundry services cartel probe; Ferriera Valsabbia in the Italian rebar cartel investigation; Loyal Coal in an Australian bid-rigging probe; and convinced the Belgian Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision annulling the competition authority’s cement cartel decision against CBR/Heidelberg Cement.

The firm is one of few to balance claimant and defendant private litigation work. It represents Ryder and its subsidiaries in a high-value damages claim following-on from the EU’s trucks cartel decision. It defends Total against a claim brought by Alitalia against several oil companies worth €900 million in Italy; and Google in claims brought by Unlockd in Australia, the UK and the US.

Ashurst also has a thriving merger control practice. In the UK, it advised clients on two separate but simultaneous in-depth reviews: Universal Health Services on its acquisition of Adult Services; and Cardtronics on its buyout of DirectCash Payments. The former was cleared with conditions and the later without.

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