GCR 100 2021

20. Ashurst

20. Ashurst

Professional notice

Merger ranking:-Cartel ranking:-Litigation ranking:-
Global headNigel Parr
No. of jurisdictions with a GCR-ranked competition team6
Practice size96
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal20%
Lateral partner hires1
Partner departures3
Former senior enforcers who are partners/counsel3

Ashurst slips down our Global Elite rankings this year from 14th to 20th, but the firm continues to work on an impressive docket of cases across its six GCR-ranked competition teams.

In Australia, where the firm is ranked as highly recommended, the team advised on two high-profile deals. It represented Aurizon in its sale of a key intermodal terminal to Pacific National, which was challenged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. A first-instance court ruled in 2019 that a behavioural remedy offered by the merging parties alleviated any competition concerns, but an appellate court later ruled in 2020 that the acquisition was not anticompetitive, releasing Pacific National from the earlier court-approved commitment. The firm also represented fertiliser company Nutrien in its proposed acquisition of agricultural company Ruralco. Australia’s commission raised competition concerns and opened a Phase II review in June 2019, but eventually cleared the tie-up unconditionally in August 2019.

In Brussels, the team continues to act for Intel in remittal proceedings before the General Court. The European Court of Justice ordered the lower court to reconsider if the European Commission used the right methodology in its decision to fine the chipmaker €1.06 billion for allegedly foreclosing rivals from the market. Oral hearings were held in March 2020, and the court’s judgment is pending. In the United Kingdom, the London office advises the country’s incumbent postal operator Royal Mail in its appeal against a £50 million abuse of dominance fine from the UK’s communications regulator. The Office of Communications found that Royal Mail abused its dominance in the postal sector when it announced a new pricing plan for its customers that was designed to force rival bulk mail delivery company Whistl out of the market. The Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision in November 2019, and a Court of Appeal of England and Wales hearing is scheduled for 2021.

The team also represents Italian clients in several cartel cases. In July 2019, the European Commission readopted its Concrete Rebar cartel decision, slashing the fines it imposed on the conspirators by 50% owing to the excessive length of the probe, which began in 2002. Brussels-based partner Denis Fosselard advised Ferriera Valsabbia and Alfa Acciai on the case, which marked the first time the EU enforcer has ever readopted a fining decision twice. Fosselard was also co-counsel to helicopter operator Babcock Mission Critical Services in its appeal against a decision by Italy’s Competition Authority to fine eight helicopter companies and the Italian Helicopters Association a total of €67 million for illegally setting prices for cargo and passenger transport services. An Italian court in May 2020 upheld the competition authority’s infringement decision.

In litigation work, teams in the United Kingdom and Germany advise transportation company Ryder in a follow-on damages claim against members of the EU Trucks cartel. Ryder is the largest individual claimant in the United Kingdom, and the case is currently before the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Ashurst's integrated team of lawyers and economists combines dedicated experts who assist clients with multi-jurisdictional and local competition law challenges across Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region. We advise clients across all industries including Energy & Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Digital Economy, Financial Services and Real Estate. 

The Ashurst competition team has a long established pedigree in complex and ground-breaking competition investigations, prosecutions and appeals. Across the practice, we have assisted high profile multinational clients in the most prominent cartel and anti-competitive conduct cases over many years, including some of the largest value EU abuse of dominance cases and various ground-breaking cartel cases. The practice is also increasingly involved in large scale follow-on damages actions across the EU, defending and bringing claims.

In merger reviews, we have a long history of successfully assisting clients to achieve their commercial objectives, in Europe, Australia and across Asia in numerous significant multi-jurisdictional matters we handle.

Ashurst also has cutting edge knowledge and experience in relation to state aid law, advising clients before the European Commission and European courts.  We have recently advised on some of the largest State aid cases in the EU in the areas of member state tax regimes, government support for large infrastructure projects (in particular transport and energy) and emergency government funding and other support as a result of the C-19 pandemic.  Our State aid and regulatory practice also relies upon our public procurement and EU Treaty expertise to provide clients with seamless advice; in the field of public procurement we advised on four of the largest challenges to be heard by the UK courts last year.

In advising our clients, we seek out risk-based, practical strategies to meet their commercial objectives and defend their commercial interests.  We are also known for our hands on Partner led approach, which clients frequently endorse. 

Our in-house economists remain a unique part of the team's proposition, allowing us to offer clients fully integrated legal and economic expertise. We remain one of the few international law firms with a team of in-house economists, and clients consistently identify this as a key differentiating factor that adds significant value across the board, particularly in complex matters involving detailed economic analysis. This also mirrors the multi-disciplinary teams fielded by regulators.

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