Yet again, Freshfields is a force to be reckoned with worldwide. Seventy-two per cent of the firm’s senior lawyers are nominated to Who’s Who Legal: Competition, a truly enviable list of clients regularly turn to the firm for advice, and its lawyers are frequently involved in some of the world’s most significant deals, investigations and lawsuits.
|Merger ranking||2||Litigation ranking||4||Cartel ranking||2|
|Global heads||David Broomhall, Martin Klusmann|
|Number of jurisdictions with a competition team||14|
|Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal||72|
|Lateral partner hires||0|
Freshfields has a competition practice in 14 jurisdictions. GCR ranks the firm in 13 of those (we have yet to conduct a bar survey of the outlier, the United Arab Emirates), and as an elite group in seven. No other firm can match that: if you want a one-stop-shop for global expertise in competition law, Freshfields is simply unmatched. In 2015, Freshfields promoted Sascha Schubert to the partnership in Brussels, and Juliane Ziebarth in Düsseldorf and Kaori Yamada in Tokyo to counsel. Brussels partner David Broomhall and Martin Klusmann in Düsseldorf, both competition law stars in their own right, continue to lead the global practice.
It’s difficult to pare down Freshfields’ achievements and highlight only a few standout cases – especially in mergers, an area in which the firm particularly excels. But acting for Holcim in its merger with Lafarge must surely be one, and the practice’s skill and expertise, sitting across the table from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, saw the deal cleared with remedies the parties proposed early and proactively, keeping the deal out of a Phase II review. After that, the team took its client through the €6.5 billion divestment process across 13 countries. Again sitting opposite Cleary, Freshfields steered Novartis through its complex deal with GlaxoSmithKline. Other major engagements included representing Hutchison during separate acquisitions of O2 in Ireland and the UK – interestingly, the firm also advised BT Group during its buyout of EE and Deutsche Telekom; BG during its acquisition by Shell; and the buyer in the US$16.7 billion Intel/Altera deal. That’s only a sample: Freshfields dominates the merger scene, especially across Europe – and while it fell outside the GCR 100 research period, it’s noteworthy that Freshfields is acting for Anheuser-Busch InBev during its takeover of SABMiller.
Freshfields’ competition litigation practice, led by London heavyweight Jon Lawrence, is another jewel in the firm’s crown. It’s one of the rare non-US firms to have gained a significant presence on the US scene, defending HSBC against class actions targeting alleged precious metals fixing; Beijing Matsushita Color CRT Co in the In re Cathode Ray Tube antitrust litigation case; Hachette in the eBooks class action; British Vita in the polyurethane foam cartel follow-on claims both in the US and the UK; and United Airlines as it faces allegations of airline capacity fixing. Over in Europe, the litigation group’s traditional stomping ground, the firm represents Anheuser-Busch InBev in German follow-on litigation and Emirates in the UK air cargo proceedings. It scored a notable victory for regular client Holcim, as it fended off a cartel damages claims suit in Düsseldorf.
On the cartels side, the firm claims to have been involved in more than half of the investigations launched by DG Comp over the past decade. It is heavily involved in the ongoing global benchmark probes by multiple enforcers, as well as multiple national cartel investigations in other areas by national enforcers.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Viennese team has enviable experience in cartel litigation and leniency, though it was recently hit by the departure of its Austrian competition practice leader and sole partner, Axel Reidlinger, in May 2015. Freshfields Berlin partner Thomas Lübbig now heads the five-associate team, spending roughly equal amounts of time between Berlin and Vienna.
The team is not only involved in local Austrian matters, but also has a hand in Freshfields’ broader European competition practice. Alongside Freshfields’ Brussels team, Reidlinger represented Schenker – a unit of German state-owned rail monopoly Deutsche Bahn – during the DG Comp investigation of the freight forwarding cartel. The European enforcer ultimately imposed a €32 million fine. Freshfields also represented Schenker in proceedings before Austria’s Cartel Court. The team also acts for a large financial services institution in the global forex investigation.
Freshfields defended claims against firm-wide regular client ThyssenKrupp from 17 claimants in the first ever follow-on damages claim before Vienna’s Commercial Court. Separately, it represented the elevator company in European Court of Justice proceedings on whether European law permits umbrella claims, allowing price increases caused by companies not involved in a cartel to be reimbursed by cartelists. Other regular clients include E.ON Austria, Metro Group and Porsche Holding.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer complements its elite Brussels EU presence with a leading Belgian competition law group. Practice co-chairs and Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominees Laurent Garzaniti and Thomas Janssens lead the work. Along with a team of seven associates, they advise on an impressive proportion of cases opened by the authority and have acted in behavioural matters in sectors as diverse as retail, building, travel and energy.
Among recent work, Garzaniti successfully represented food retailer Delhaize/Food Lion in the authority’s investigation of the chocolate and confectionery sector, and helped secure settlements in the health-care and home brands investigation – the authority’s first settlement proceedings. The firm is also acting for Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Euroports in investigations of the travel agents and ports sectors, respectively, and in related proceedings before the Brussels Court of Appeal that challenge the legality of dawn raids in each investigation. The firm has guided clients implicated in cartel investigations in the cement, chocolate, consumer products and flour markets.
The firm is acting for the Brussels Airport Company in connection with the Commission’s state aid investigation of rival airport Charleroi and is acting for elevator maker ThyssenKrupp in a case that marked the first time DG Comp sought to act as a claimant in damages proceedings; the appeal reached the European Court of Justice. In deal work, the Freshfields team acted for Telenet in the DG comp filing of its acquisition of BASE, and it advised Perrigo on its deal with Omega Pharma. Other clients include Univeg Group and Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Undoubtedly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to deserve its seat at the top of the Brussels table. Along with Cleary, it is the yardstick against which other firms measure themselves, and while some rivals say they compete with Freshfields, no one disputes that it sets the standard for consistency, experience and excellence. Twelve lawyers make up the partnership, which was boosted in 2015 by the election of Sascha Schubert. Freshfields’ size is a particular asset. As one partner puts it, “even if I don’t know, there’s always a colleague who does.” While other firms have some terrific practitioners, Freshfields has top-class expertise across the board and is well respected at the commission. Thomas Janssens heads Freshfields’ European practice, and partner Frank Montag has won Who’s Who Legal: Competition ’s Global Competition Lawyer of the Year award six times in a row, most recently in April 2015.
The merger practice is especially strong and the main challenge is sustaining that success. 2015 didn’t see the firm lose its momentum: acting for Holcim, it sat opposite the table from Lafarge lawyers Cleary as they steered the huge Holcim/Lafarge deal to a Phase I clearance with divestitures. Freshfields acted across the globe, with Brussels partners Montag and Rafique Bachour heading up the Brussels end alongside a Düsseldorf team. Freshfields also represented BG Group during its €65 billion tie-up with Shell, which was ultimately cleared without conditions in September 2015. Partner Alan Ryan handled that deal, alongside a team in Madrid. Montag and Schubert represented Siemens as it bought out Dresser-Rand, obtaining Phase II unconditional clearance.
Freshfields’ Brussels team may be reputed for its excellent merger work, but the firm’s no slouch in behavioural matters. It represents several third parties as DG Comp continues its abuse of dominance proceedings against Google. The firm also specialises in coordinating parallel investigations across multiple jurisdictions: it’s doing just that in the ongoing transatlantic credit default swaps investigation, as well as in multiple other cartel investigations, including in the freight train, capacitors, cement, optical disk drives and retail food packaging markets. In the retail food packaging investigation, partner Laurent Garzaniti helped Linpac avoid fines, after the company submitted a leniency application. In the freight trains sector, Montag represented Schenker in DG Comp proceedings; the company was ultimately fined €32 million.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer maintains a well-known international practice in China, where Nicholas French and Ninette Dodoo control the reins at the firm’s Beijing office, supported by partner Jenny Connolly.
Freshfields advised on 25 merger and venture clearances before Mofcom last year alone, gaining approval for deals valued at more than US$100 billion in total. Recently, the firm has secured unconditional clearance for Holcim in its merger with Lafarge as well as conditional clearance for Novartis following its purchase of several divisions from GlaxoSmithKline, which received an extended Phase II review. The team also acted for Hapag-Lloyd in connection with the merger of its container liner shipping activities with CSAV, which was notified to MOFCOM in the wake of the enforcer’s prohibition decision of the P3 alliance in the same sector. Freshfields was instructed by Continental on its acquisition of Veyance, successfully gaining unconditional clearance. Things are also busy on the behavioural side, with the firm advising on several confidential NDRC investigations. Regular client work also includes providing antitrust counselling to a number of Hong Kong’s largest companies in the hospitality and financial services sectors to ensure compliance with Competition Ordinance legislation.
Being a competition lawyer can be an intrepid business, as the travels of Jérôme Philippe across West Africa show. The Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer practice head went to some of the world’s less prominent antitrust jurisdictions to secure approval for Etisalat’s purchase of Maroc Teleco. He visited the Central African Republic in November 2013, one week before the country descended into internal strife. French-speaking Africa is somewhere the former head of the merger division at the authority wants to expand. He is also looking to develop the practice in the follow-on damages area, where the firm traditionally defends clients.
The practice’s other partner, Maria Trabucchi, is advising Kingfisher in its merger with Mr Bricolage. The pair are players two and three and their combination will create the market leader so, unsurprisingly, there are a couple of competition issues to iron out. In Luxembourg, meanwhile, litigation continues surrounding Lagardère’s troubled takeover of Vivendi Universal Publishing from Vivendi in 2004. Trabucchi represents Wendel, the purchaser of assets divested in the original deal. The case is the first time a commission decision approving a third-party acquirer has been challenged in court. The saga has now reached its 10th year of litigation. Trabucchi is also acting for rail company SGF Carbon against a damage claim brought by SNCF. Counsel Jean-Nicolas Maillard left last summer to join Steptoe & Johnson as partner in Brussels.
The large team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, split between offices in Düsseldorf, Cologne and Berlin, is consistently cited as a market leader by its rivals. The German practice is one of the firm’s best; global competition co-head Martin Klusmann, a Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee, is based in Düsseldorf. In all, 15 partners make up the competition team in Germany. Eleven of those are Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominees. A testament to Freshfields’ strength is its roster of household-name clients, which includes the likes of Air Berlin, Chiquita, E.ON, Liberty Global, Mars and Siemens.
Complex international merger clearance is a clear focus for the team. Recently, Düsseldorf partner Peter Niggemann was involved in the huge Holcim/Lafarge cement merger. The deal involved notification around the world, with Niggemann and his colleagues handling the European side for Holcim. DG Comp approved the deal subject to a series of divestments in December 2014. DG Comp unconditionally cleared the sale in September 2014. Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee Frank Röhling steered the merger of online real estate platforms Immowelt and Immomet, respectively the country’s second and third-largest such operators. Klusmann and counsel Juliane Ziebarth picked up the sale of VDM Metals to Lindsay Goldberg Vogel for key client ThyssenKrupp in spring 2015.
Contentious and behavioural work also keeps the Freshfields group busy, including several high-profile litigation mandates, defending the likes of car glass cartel member Asahi, and regular client ThyssenKrupp in lawsuits stemming from the company’s involvement in the rail and elevator cartels. Holcim and Solvay, respectively involved in the cement and hydrogen peroxide cartels, turned to Freshfields to defend follow-on cartel damage lawsuits.
Tommaso Salonico, competition head at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Italy and the firm’s managing partner in the country, is the best competition lawyer in Italy for energy. Freshfields’ main office is in Rome, though senior associate Ermelinda Spinelli works from Milan. Unsurprisingly, the firm has a different, more international focus than the Italian players.
Freshfields has represented Alcoa Inc and Alcoa Trasformazioni in its ECJ challenge against alleged state aid granted in the form of a preferential electricity tariff to Alcoa Trasformazioni. Meanwhile, the firm also acts for Borsa Italiana in Italian Antitrust Authority proceedings that allege the company abused its dominant position in the sale of financial market data, favouring an affiliate company. The Freshfields Italian practice also has a hand in the Europe-wide hotel booking investigation: InterContinental Hotels Group tapped the firm to handle the Italian leg of the probe, alongside other offices in other European jurisdictions.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’S Japan antitrust team is led by Who’s Who Legal: Competition entrant Takeshi Nakao. He is supported by experienced senior consultant Akinori Uesugi, former secretary general of the JFTC, and rising star Kaori Yamada, who was promoted to counsel in January.
The firm’s merger work has been very consistent, with plenty of work for big multinationals. The firm worked for Intel on its acquisition of Altera and BG Group on its sale to Shell. In addition, Freshfields represented Mars in its purchase of Procter & Gamble’s pet food unit, and advised ABB on its joint venture filings with Hitachi. The firm is handling several behavioural matters but they remain confidential.
Onno Brouwer and Winfred Knibbeler set up Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Netherlands competition practice in 2000. Both divide their time between Dutch and EU matters. Brouwer says his work is 50:50 while Knibbeler estimates that 65 per cent of his time is on Dutch matters. Knibbeler acted for broadcaster Ziggo in its €10 billion takeover by Liberty Global, approved in Phase II with commitments by the commission in October 2014. In 2013, he was also counsel to UPS in its blocked merger with TNT. He is now leading the appeal against the commission’s prohibition before the EU General Court.
Before the Dutch trade and industry appeals tribunal (the court of last instance) Brouwer represents Ceres and Silos Soufflet in an appeal against the authority’s 2012 flour cartel decision. He also acts for the Dutch Association of Real Estate Brokers (NVM) against an abuse of dominance complaint brought by rival VBO. The claim relates to NVM’s Funda website.
In addition, Brouwer is also deeply involved in follow-on litigation. He defends Shell against claims arising from the Bitumen cartel decision, ThyssenKrupp against follow-on claims from the elevators cartel decision, Hansen & Rosenthal from the paraffin wax cartel and Bavaria brewery from the Dutch beer cartel. Perhaps Brouwer’s most interesting case, however, is his defence of ABB in the gas insulated switchgear cartel damages action, now before the Netherlands Supreme Court. It is deciding on the important principle of whether there should be a passing-on defence.
At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, counsel Alexander Viktorov heads the Moscow competition group. Two associates work with him full-time on competition matters. The majority of this is merger work, Viktorov says, although at least a third of the team’s time is taken up by behavioural cases, compliance work, training and other matters.
The team has worked on several high-profile mergers over the past year, including advising Holcim on the Russian merger control aspects of its worldwide merger with rival cement maker Lafarge and obtaining clearance for ChemChina on its US$8 billion acquisition of a stake in Pirelli. Freshfields also successfully advised Novartis on the Russian antitrust aspects of its three-part conditional transaction with GlaxoSmithKline and represented Siemens in a deal with oil equipment maker Dresser-Rand. The FAS cleared that transaction as well. Other regular clients include Solvay, DE Master Blenders – which established a coffee joint venture with Mondelez under Freshfields’ guidance – and AerCap International.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Spanish competition practice continues to flourish despite the challenging economic climate. The antitrust practice counts two full equity partners: practice head Francisco Cantos and partner Álvaro Iza, both nominated to Who’s Who Legal: Competition . The two work alongside two senior associates and six associates split between the Madrid and Barcelona offices.
One of the first international law firms to gain a foothold in the Spanish market, Freshfields counts a mixture of national and international companies as clients. This year, the firm represented General Motors in the largest cartel investigation ever launched by Spain’s competition authority. The alleged car distribution and aftermarket service cartel involved almost all participants in the national market with combined fines that totalled €171 million. The firm also advised Holcim España on an authority investigation of the cement and concrete industry. The firm also won a 50 per cent reduction on a fine imposed on Sony Pictures, which was granted by the Audiencia Nacional and now pending before the Supreme Court.
Freshfields is acting for complainant Mediapro against media companies Telefónica and DTS regarding the commercialisation of broadcasting rights for the UEFA Champions League football tournament. Fines were imposed on both companies as a result of the complaint. It also advised Mexican food multinational Grupo Bimbo on the Spanish and Portuguese aspects of its acquisition of Pantico, a Spanish rival owned by Oaktree. The authority has proposed structural remedies in return for approval of the deal.
The competition practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is consistently ranked by its rivals as the best in London. Simon Priddis, who replaced Rod Carlton as head of the practice last year, leads the 15-partner, 52-associate team – by far the largest in the UK market. Eleven London partners feature in Who’s Who Legal: Competition , including competition litigation head Jon Lawrence. This year partner Andrea Gomes da Silva joined the CMA on a permanent basis, after spending much of 2013 on secondment at the enforcer assisting in its formation.
On the transactional side, James Aitken advised Hutchison Whampoa on its €10.3 billion acquisition of Telefónica’s O2 mobile business, while Simon Priddis took the lead on Müller UK & Ireland’s acquisition of Dairy Crest Group – a deal that required novel Phase I remedies. Martin McElwee led the team instructed by Poundland, securing Phase II clearance for its acquisition of 99p Stores. Deirdre Trapp, meanwhile, acted for TelecityGroup in its €1.6 billion merger with InterXion, also advising the company on the deal’s subsequent termination and on a separate US$3.6 billion buyout from Equinox.
Behavioural work keeps the firm just as busy, with the team continuing to advise on the Libor, Forex and credit default swap investigations. The firm is instructed by SSE in an alleged abuse of dominance investigation by Ofgem and also in the CMA’s separate energy market investigation. Freshfields is defending HSBC in an investigation into the supply of banking services to small businesses and also in the Financial Conduct Authority’s cash savings market study. Litigation is also a strength for the firm, with Lawrence advising Ericsson on allegations of anti-competitive behaviour raised by Samsung and Huawei in the High Court.
United States: Washington DC
Global antitrust powerhouse Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has enjoyed steady growth in the top US market since it launched its practice in 2002. Linchpin Paul Yde has long been respected by rivals for his high-tech expertise and credibility before the agencies, but in recent years the firm has added several new faces, many of whom have bright futures in the antitrust world. These include counsel Mary Lehner from the FTC chairman’s office, and multiple junior lawyers from both agencies. Deal specialist Bob Schlossberg thinks the firm has a leg-up over rivals in terms of attracting talent. “We’re attached to the best antitrust practice in the world,” he says, “and young lawyers are thinking internationally.”
Undoubtedly much of the team’s workload comes in from overseas. Yde and company often manoeuvre tricky cross-border deals past the US agencies in tandem with their colleagues in Brussels. Continental’s purchase of Veyance was one, and Yde and Lehner handled two of Novartis’ filings in its deals with GSK and Eli Lilly. The team is currently working for can-maker Ball in its acquisition by Rexam, while partner and cartel lawyer Thomas Ensign is handling litigation and agency work for Deutsche Bank and HSBC. But the DC team also wins work on its own merits, including representation of Bank of America in a financial services probe and conduct investigations work for US clients, and even boasts of cross-selling clients to other parts of the firm. Hachette, in e-books matters, and United Airlines are loyal antitrust clients.
Who, when, where & whatever it takes
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