GCR 100 - 19th Edition

Covington & Burling

14 December 2018

Merger ranking - Litigation ranking - Cartel ranking -
Global heads Thomas Barnett, Deborah Garza,
Johan Ysewyn
No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team 4
Practice size 77
Partners 33
Counsel 8
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who’s Who Legal 27%
Associates 36
Lateral partner hires 0
Partner departures 0
Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel 9

During the reporting period for this survey, Covington & Burling was less active than some of its peers, particularly in areas such as mergers and litigation in which it previously has been a top 10 practice. It made no lateral partner hires in that time, but Terrell McSweeny joined the Washington, DC office in September 2018, a year after her term ended as a member of the US FTC. She adds the one element that arguably had been missing from the antitrust team there – someone from the top level of the FTC – which may boost it in the ranking next year.

With a partnership full of former enforcers, Covington unsurprisingly maintains a healthy slate of cartel defence. However, it doesn’t necessarily take the form that other firms’ work for accused price fixers does – in other words, winning the race to apply for leniency. Rather, the firm says, its goal is to persuade competition authorities not to investigate or prosecute its clients at all. This means both cartel and non-cartel work before government agencies is largely confidential, as clients are not being made public through authorities’ decisions.

An exception is its work for PSA Antwerp in the stevedoring sector, where the firm fought the use of evidence from dawn raids conducted by Belgium’s Competition Authority without prior court approval. In April 2018, the country’s highest court ruled in favour of PSA. The Belgian government evidently holds no grudge about the firm’s representation of the port container handler, as it has tapped Covington for advice in multiple state aid cases.

The firm’s private litigation clients include Alps Electric regarding the heater control panels and Keihin regarding the fuel injection systems pieces of the auto parts cartel; and Citibank institutions in the Libor, Forex and ISDAfix class actions. For JP Morgan, Covington is seemingly everywhere: in the Mexican Government Bonds, Interest Rate Swaps, Treasury Securities Auction and Aluminium Warehousing antitrust litigations. Client Philippine Airlines finally settled price-fixing claims in Transpacific Passenger Air Transportation, but Union Pacific was among the railroad companies that beat a renewed class certification bid in Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge. Of the work most interesting to the general public, however, it would be hard to surpass a single month in summer 2017 when the firm helped the NFL obtain dismissal of a former cheerleader’s claim of a conspiracy to suppress wages, and of a set of 27 suits challenging the NFL’s exclusive arrangements with DirecTV to distribute the “Sunday Ticket” package of games.

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