GCR 100 - 20th Edition

Ashurst

14 January 2020

Merger ranking - Litigation ranking - Cartel ranking 4
Global head Nigel Parr
No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team 6
Practice size 86
Partners 21
Counsel 17
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal 18%
Associates 48
Lateral partner hires 0
Partner departures 0
Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel 6

Ashurst has firmly established itself as a regular fixture in the Global Elite. The firm’s solid team of 21 partners and 17 counsel has an excellent cartel record, while also having a hand in some interesting merger cases.

The Australian team is representing Aurizon in the sale of its Queensland intermodal business to Pacific National and Linfox, and in the rail freight company’s separate sale of a rail terminal to Pacific National. Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission sought an injunction to prevent Aurizon from closing down its Queensland intermodal business, but Ashurst successfully defended the company in court proceedings. The enforcer has appealed against the court’s decision. In another big Australian case, the firm assisted media company Nine in securing unconditional clearance for its acquisition of Fairfax, in a deal that merged two of Australia’s most well-known media brands.

The firm has also led on some important behavioural work. It represented Royal Mail in the postal company’s appeal against a €58 million abuse of dominance fine from the UK’s Office of Communications. The UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld the agency’s decision in November 2019, finding that Royal Mail’s intention to raise a rival’s costs amounted to an abuse.

In litigation, Ashurst’s Australian team defended Google against allegations from application developer Unlockd, which claimed the technology company misused its market power when it removed Unlockd’s apps from its Play Store. Unlockd filed for bankruptcy during the proceedings and its administrators dropped the case before a final hearing. In Spain, the firm is advising Hyundai in a damages claim following on from a price-fixing cartel probe. The sprawling litigation arising from the Trucks cartel is keeping the team busy too: it is advising transport company Ryder and a subsidiary in a UK follow-on claim, which was at the preliminary issue stage at the time of writing.

Other notable work includes advising Google in the ACCC’s Digital Platforms inquiry. The Australian authority’s final report, released in July 2019, included 11 recommendations aiming to address Google’s and Facebook’s market power. The European Commission’s increased focus on fiscal state aid issues has seen Ashurst advise Luxembourg’s government in all its ongoing state aid investigations before the commission and the EU General Court, including the Fiat, Amazon and Engie cases. In September 2019, the General Court upheld the EU enforcer’s finding that Luxembourg granted illegal state aid to Fiat Chrysler.

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