GCR 100 - 19th Edition

Covington & Burling

Professional notice

Merger ranking-Litigation ranking-Cartel ranking-
Global headsThomas Barnett, Deborah Garza,
Johan Ysewyn
No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team4
Practice size77
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who’s Who Legal27%
Lateral partner hires0
Partner departures0
Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel9

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.

Ranked among the top antitrust and competition firms in the world, Covington guides clients through the complex web of antitrust and competition laws to help them secure their most important business objectives. Our antitrust litigation, cartel defence and investigations, and antitrust transactions practices help clients secure their most important business objectives.

Built upon a foundation of unsurpassed regulatory and policy insight from dozens of former government officials as well as extensive litigation and investigatory experience and corporate deal work, Covington is a one-stop shop for global antitrust and competition and other regulatory concerns.

Regulatory insight

With former regulators and enforcement officials among our ranks, we are exceptionally well equipped to help clients anticipate potential issues, navigate merger reviews efficiently, respond to investigations and enforcement actions effectively, and develop compliance programmes to reduce risks proactively. Our team includes:

  • five former US Justice Department antitrust and criminal division heads;
  • several former EU Parliament and EU Council officials and former ambassadors;  
  • several former US Federal Trade Commission officials including, former Commissioner Terrell McSweeny; and
  • two former DG Competition heads of unit.

Smart, tough response to litigation and investigations

With more than 400 litigators – seven of whom are members of the American College of Trial Lawyers – Covington has decades of experience before US courts, European courts, the EU Commission, and arbitral tribunals around the world.

We also represent clients through the full life cycle of civil and criminal cartel and abuse of dominance investigations, providing seamless management of parallel investigations in multiple jurisdictions and critical insight on agency goals.

Seamless transaction support

Covington’s antitrust and competition team handles major cases for some of the biggest companies in the world. We assist clients of all sizes in obtaining timely transaction clearances, including complex transactions requiring notification and review in jurisdictions across multiple continents.


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