It is nearly impossible to find a high-profile contentious case on which Stikeman Elliott does not act. Competition practice head Paul Collins’ and criminal defence and litigation heavyweight Katherine L Kay’s reputations precede them, and they work alongside seven partners, one counsel and 14 associates across Canada. Their peers consider the team a force to be reckoned with, often finding one of them sitting across the boardroom table in a complex matter.
The firm is top-notch when it comes to deals: it advised Potash in its deal with Agrium; home-improvement chain Lowe’s when it acquired its rival Rona; CST in its three-way deal with Couche-Tard and Parkland Industries; Marriott International in its purchase of Starwood Hotels & Resorts; and Manitoba Telecom Services when the bureau conditionally cleared its acquisition by Bell. The team also advised sodium chlorate company Canexus when it was bought by Chemtrade, a deal cleared on the basis of efficiencies even though it was found to have anticompetitive effects. Currently, they counsel Bayer in its proposed deal with Monsanto, and US conglomerate United Technologies in its proposed merger with avionics and information technology company Rockwell Collins.
Fierce competition litigator Kay is behind the Canadian e-books saga, acting for publisher HarperCollins; after the company, three other major publishers and Apple had their original settlements with the bureau rescinded following a challenge by e-books retailer Kobo, HarperCollins refused to agree to the second round of settlements. Kay and her colleagues also defend bank CIBC in the Visa and Mastercard interchange settlements; multiple clients in various auto parts investigations and class actions across Canada; and NYK Line in a proposed class action brought against members of an alleged global shipping cartel.
The competition team at corporate heavyweight Stikeman Elliott has had a “hell of a run” since 2012, says its practice head Paul Collins. That year saw straight-talking Collins return to the practice after two years heading up the Competition Bureau’s mergers branch, and rival lawyers admit the practice has taken off since then. In litigation, Stikemans’ personnel are similarly admired: partner and double Who’s Who Legal nominee Katherine Kay is perhaps Canada’s top competition litigator. Who’s Who Legal nominees Susan M Hutton and Lawson A W Hunter both have active regulatory practices in Ottawa.
Collins likes to think the firm gets its pick of the trickiest deals before Canada’s competition bureau. It is hard to deny that Stikemans has been on many of the most complex reviews of the past year or so. Collins and rising star Michael Kilby represented newspaper company Transcontinental in the acquisition of 74 local newspapers from Quebecor. The bureau ended its review with inventive remedies to test claims that several titles were unviable as competitors. The team also helped supermarket chain Sobeys buy Safeway’s 213 Canadian stores for C$5.8 billion, which required minute market-by-market analysis. Right now, Collins is working with Botox-maker Allergan in a US$54 billion hostile takeover by Quebec’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The hostile nature means timing and access to information are especially tricky, Collins says.
Merger control lawyers at Stikemans will often work on the bureau’s abuse of dominance investigations. But for criminal and litigation work, Kay is in charge. She and fellow litigators Eliot Kolers, Danielle Royal and Montreal-based Yves Martineau advise clients in multiple investigations class actions, including up to a dozen auto parts companies accused of colluding with rivals to fix prices. Kay has a long relationship with Air Canada, having represented the country’s biggest airline in a challenged joint venture with United Airlines and has long served as counsel in the air cargo case. The team is representing CIBC against a swell of class actions challenging interchange-fee rules, and has also had success recently on behalf of Tim Hortons and distributor Gordon Food Services in two lawsuits that test when plaintiffs can bring antitrust counts in franchise lawsuits.