1. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
|Leadership:||John Davies and Martin Klusmann|
|Home jurisdiction:||United Kingdom and Germany|
|Total size of firm:||2,444|
|Number of competition specialists:||245|
|Percentage of competition specialists:||10|
|Who’s Who Legal nominees:||38|
|Percentage of partners in Who’s Who Legal:||70|
|Counsel & consultants:||16|
|Number of lateral partner hires:||0|
|Number of partner departures:||0|
|Number of internal promotions:||4|
The firm increased its standing in The International Who's Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists to an unmatched 38 lawyers, which amounts to 70 per cent of competition partners being nominated. In addition, the firm received the most recommendations as the world’s top competition practice from rival firms with a whopping total of 84 votes. The firm has competition practices in 13 countries - almost every major competition jurisdiction. In addition, the firm’s cohort of competition partners has grown, especially in London. James Aitken, Alastair Chapman and Mark Sansom in London and Rafique Bachour in Brussels all made partner this year.
Freshfields’s competition team worked on numerous important transactions, including several key global mergers. It represented Daimler and Rolls Royce on their joint acquisition of Tognum, a deal that involved lawyers from nine different offices. The firm also acted for pharmaceutical company Solvay on its acquisition of chemical company Rhodia and is advising Synthes on the DG Comp phase II investigation of its acquisition by Johnson & Johnson. On the cartel front, the firm has been involved in two of the European Commission’s four settlement decisions to date, in the latest of which, Freshfields advised Asahi Glass on its settlement in the commission’s investigation of the CRT glass market. It advised fruit company Chiquita in its EU cartel and multi-jurisdictional leniency proceedings, leading to full immunity in the commission’s recent decision on the exotic fruit market. The firm also has a prominent profile in UK competition litigation proceedings. Freshfields lawyers recently represented Hays in the Office of Fair Trading (OFT)’s investigation of recruitment agencies and the company’s subsequent appeal, and also represented Tesco in successful defences of OFT investigations in the tobacco, groceries and dairy markets. The firm is also representing Solvay, ThyssenKrupp and Holcim among others in European follow-on actions.
State aid also represents an important facet of the firm’s practice. Highlights this year include advising on regulatory aspects of the restructurings of banks such as ABN AMRO, Anglo Irish Bank, ING, Bayern and HSH Nordbank. It is acting for Northern Rock on its purchase by Virgin Money and is also advising Spain’s Abertis Telecom in DG Comp’s investigation of the financing of Spain’s digital switchover.
Partner and Who’s Who Legal nominee Axel Reidlinger leads the competition team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. He works alongside four associates. The team is smaller than others in the “elite” category, but it works closely with colleagues in Brussels.
This year, the practice advised Fresenius on the competition law aspects of its acquisition of the peritoneal dialysis business of Gambro. It was also counsel to Styria Media Group and Moser Holding on their joint venture in the market for lifestyle and women’s magazines.
On the behavioural side, the group represented a major Austrian brewery, which was subject to an antitrust investigation by the country’s Federal Competition Authority.
Other clients include Deutsche Bahn Group, Interseroh, Ringier, RWE and ThyssenKrupp Group.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has an enviable reputation in the Brussels competition bar. David Broomhall leads the antitrust group; he is one of nine partners at the Brussels office nominated to the Who’s Who Legal. The team is one of the largest in the market with 11 partners, two counsel, one consultant and 38 associates. Rafique Bachour made partner in May and Hein Hobbelen was promoted to counsel in November.
Once again, the firm has played a leading role in virtually all the most important EU competition cases. The competition practice was counsel to Emirates in the European Commission’s air cargo investigation, which resulted in Emirates being dropped from the investigation. It advised Siemens when the company was subject to a commission investigation because of the non-compete provisions in its joint venture agreement with Areva in the field of civil nuclear technology. And Freshfields represented NEC Corporation and its subsidiaries in cartel settlement procedures in the DRAM semi-conductors cartel case.
Three years after the global financial collapse, state aid work continues apace. Freshfields advised ING on the implementation of conditions imposed by DG Comp on state aid ING received from the Netherlands. The firm’s merger control practice is also thriving. It counselled Rolls-Royce on its joint public bid with Daimler for the outstanding shares in Tognum. The team handled Rosneft’s €12 billion alliance with BP and it advised Solvay on the takeover of chemical company Rhodia.
Who’s Who Legal nominee Jérôme Philippe leads the Paris competition practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. He is supported by partner Maria Trabucchi, who returned to the firm in 2009 with a team from Weil Gotshal & Manges, having begun her career at Freshfields. Two counsel and eight associates make up the modest but well-regarded team.
Multi-jurisdictional merger filings have been something of a speciality at Freshfields this year. The firm recently advised Converteam on its US$3.2 billion sale to General Electric, which required filings in six jurisdictions, including the European Commission. It also represented luxury brand LVMH in its €4.3 billion acquisition of Bulgari, which entailed several worldwide filings, and EADS and Astrium’s joint acquisition of Vizada, another global merger.
Behaviourally, the firm advised Laboratoires Pierre Fabre in a landmark case at the European Court of Justice on the legality of refusing to allow internet sales of its products. The ECJ judged the action to be a restriction of competition in a preliminary ruling in October.
Freshfields says that antitrust and merger litigation continue to be high priorities for the Paris team, with three cases before the ECJ and several before the French courts. The firm says it is has particular expertise in leniency applications, and has filed around one-third of all applications to the French competition authorities.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s storied competition practice is the envy of its rivals. With offices in Berlin, Cologne and Dusseldorf, and a 57-strong antitrust team, the firm boasts the largest competition practice in Germany. In addition to its sheer size and geographical range, the team garners no less than nine nominations to the Who’s Who Legal. Düsseldorf-based partner Martin Klusmann is global co-head of the firm’s antitrust, competition and trade practice group.
The team continues to manage a busy docket of transactional cases, despite a decrease in merger filings as a result of difficult economic conditions and changes to Germany’s merger filing thresholds, which brings fewer deals under the agency’s purview.
Freshfields provided competition advice to ABB when it acquired Baldor Electric Company and counselled Aurubis on its takeover of Luvata Rolled Products. When several lenders – Alcentra, ING, Tennenbaum and Avenue – lined up to acquire German TV cable company primacom, Freshfields handled merger proceedings before both the European Commission and Germany’s cartel office.
The group’s behavioural work is equally impressive. It is advising E.ON Ruhrgas on its appeal against a European Commission fine for an alleged market-sharing arrangement with Gaz de France. It is also representing Holcim in its appeal against a German cartel office fine and defending the cement company against follow-on damage claims. Mars, Solvay and ThyssenKrupp are just some of the other household names on the firm’s books.
Tommaso Salonico leads the competition practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Rome. He and partner Gian Luca Zampa are both nominated to the Who’s Who Legal. The pair work alongside two other partners, two senior associates and 14 associates – two of whom joined the firm this year.
The team secured unconditional clearance for the Ardagh Group’s acquisition of the Fi Par Group. The deal reduced the number of companies that produce metal packaging for food and aerosols in Italy and Greece from three to two.
In one of Italy’s most high-profile competition cases of the last year, Freshfields advised E.ON Italia and 2iGas in an antitrust investigation of alleged bid rigging in the gas distribution sector. The firm also acts for Siemens, which is subject to an investigation for alleged bid rigging in the magnetic resonance imaging equipments sector.
The competition group represented a company in the freight forwarding sector when Italy’s Antitrust Authority conducted a cartel investigation in the sector. In June, the company won immunity from prosecution under the country’s leniency policy and, in doing so, avoided fines of up to €31 million. Meanwhile on the EU level, Freshfields is counsel to Solvay Solexis, which is appealing against a decision handed down by the European Commission in 2006 for alleged cartel activity in the market for hydrogen peroxide and sodium perborate. The case is pending before the European Court of Justice.
Next comes Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which handles its fair share of Japanese antitrust matters, both behavioural and transactional. The practice comprises three partners, one senior associate, four associates and Who’s Who Legal nominee Akinori Uesugi, who is a senior consultant. Kazuki Okada and Takeshi Nakao jointly lead the group.
Freshfields is advising Continental Airlines in the Japanese antitrust aspects of its merger with United Airlines, and its collaboration with All Nippon Airways. Nakao is also advising computer company Lenovo Group in a joint venture with NEC Corporation, and LVMH on the Japanese aspects of its acquisition of shares in Bulgari.
In other matters, Freshfields continues to represent a global glass manufacturer in the European Commission’s cartel investigation of the car glass industry. The firm is also acting for a Japanese trading house on global merger filings and joint ventures, and compliance programmes.
Despite being the smallest team in the elite group, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is consistently active in many of the Netherlands’ largest competition cases. Practice chief and Who’s Who Legal nominee Winfred Knibbeler says state aid is a “significant, new part” of the firm’s work.
The competition team has handled a considerable number of mergers, including representing Essent, the Netherlands’ largest utility, in its 9.3 billion acquisition by German rival RWE. The European Commission cleared the deal after imposing commitments.
The cartel practice is busy too, both within the Netherlands and at the European level. Freshfields is acting for ThyssenKrupp in its appeal at the General Court in Luxembourg against a 480 million fine for its role in the elevator cartel, which the court reduced by over 300 million. The firm is also continuing to advise ABN Amro in relation to its continuing integration with Fortis Bank, and in state aid matters with DG Comp.
Knibbeler says Freshfields’ strength in Brussels is a key factor in attracting multinational clients. Regulatory work is another growing practice area for the firm.
Alexander Viktorov is now the sole head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Moscow competition group, which he has co-led since 2005. Viktorov was promoted to counsel in October 2009, and is a nominee to Who’s Who Legal. Supporting Viktorov are two associates who work full-time on competition matters.
The team has worked on several high-profile global deals over the year or so, including advising power and automation company ABB in its acquisition of Mincom and Danone in the merger of its Fresh Dairy Products business with Russian company Unimilk. It also advised major global brands Solvay and SSL International in merger filings before the FAS. Other clients include Highstat Limited, Russian Railways and Terex.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has an impressive Spanish competition practice led by partner Francisco Cantos, a nominee to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists. The team includes another partner, three senior associates and six associates. Four associates were new to the team this year, including Jonathan Entrena who joined the firm from Morrison & Foerster in Brussels.
Freshfields was one of the first international firms to establish a real name for itself on the Spanish competition scene by handling the highest profile cases, often on behalf of blue-chip clients. This year, the team advised Spanish infrastructure multinational Abertis during several investigations by Spain’s National Competition Commission (CNC). The company faced allegations of abuse of dominance; it was forced to divest its shareholding in a competitor; it was involved in antitrust litigation and it was embroiled in state aid proceedings by the European Commission. Freshfields also advised Abertis and a major international investment bank on the competition law aspects of a joint venture in the United States.
That varied mix of competition work reflects the firm’s practice, which handles behavioural, transactional, state aid, litigation and general antitrust counselling. It was counsel to Balearia in cartel proceedings before the CNC concerning the Spanish maritime transport market. It represented E.ON during infringement proceedings before the commission in relation to third-party access issues. It also handled a dawn raid for E.ON and advised the energy company when it was subject to an abuse of dominance investigation for alleged excessive pricing.
Holcim, L’Oréal, Mediapro and ThyssenKrupp are just some of the other companies that rely on Freshfields for competition advice.
The London-based competition team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to be one of the strongest in the country. Led by Rod Carlton and featuring eight nominees to The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists, the team works on many of the UK’s largest deals and investigations. The firm’s competition litigation team, led by partner Jon Lawrence, leads the way among UK practices. James Aitken, Alastair Chapman and Mark Sansom were elected to the partnership in May.
The Freshfields team continues to be at the forefront of competition cases arising from the global financial crisis, including advising Anglo-Irish Bank on its proposed restructuring, and ING on the European Commission’s investigation of state aid granted by the Dutch government.
The firm has also been heavily involved in several matters before the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). It advised Hays on its appeal against the OFT’s use of the “minimum deterrent threshold” in the recruitment consultancy cartel: in April the CAT slashed Hays’ fine from £30.4 million to £5.9 million. Freshfields also acted for Tesco in its successful appeal against the introduction of a “competition test” following the Competition Commission’s groceries market investigation. The firm is also heavily involved in private enforcement matters, representing Emirates and Asahi Glass in follow-on cartel damages actions.
In the merger control field, high-profile deals include advising music company EMI in its £2.5 billion sale to Universal Music and Sony, and representing Northern Rock in its £747 million acquisition by Virgin Money.
United States: Government Antitrust
So far, 2011 has seen the Washington, DC-based antitrust team of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer sew up all of the loose ends on one of the largest and most complex mergers of the past decade: United Airlines’ merger with rival Continental. Led by Who’s Who Legal nominee Paul Yde and airline antitrust specialist Karine Faden - who recently left Freshfields to lead United’s in-house antitrust team - the deal’s closure is a prime example of the team’s considerable antitrust capability, especially in the airline sector, where it handles a multitude of deals and behavioural investigations for clients. The team this year advised EMI Group in the sale of its recorded music business to Vivendi and Universal; Hewlett-Packard in its US$10 billion purchase of Autonomy; and Rolls-Royce in a joint venture with Daimler, among other matters.