Competition & Regulatory

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Our Practice

Competition policy is central to an increasingly global market place. Authorities are increasingly using a wide range of powers to investigate mergers, markets, cartels, contractual arrangements between competitors, suppliers and distributors and alleged abuses of dominant market positions. Its impact goes to the very heart of the way industries are structured and how they operate. As more regimes become established, and as investigative powers and penalties become more severe, the risk of falling foul of these complex laws has never been more acute.

We have represented defendants in some of the largest and most high profile investigations conducted by competition authorities in Europe. We have hands on experience of international cartel investigations and cutting edge abuse of dominance cases as well as in depth merger investigations. We further advise on the application of EU State aid rules and assist clients on the Brussels notification and investigation process. We also have broad regulatory experience, advising government and regulatory bodies, private sector investors and operators across a range of regulated sectors (notably financial institutions, transport, water, energy, Life Sciences and TMT). We represent clients before the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Commission, national courts and enforcement agencies.

Through our network of international offices, clients come to us for advice on the complete range of services in:

  • investigations and complaints, including complex multi-jurisdictional cartel work
  • compliance, including advice on compliance programmes
  • merger control and joint ventures
  • antitrust/competition
  • advising on commercial agreements
  • competition litigation
  • intellectual property
  • market dominance
  • public procurement
  • State aid.

Our EU, Competition and regulatory teams are located in Brussels, close to the main EU institutions, and in the main EU jurisdictions (France, Germany and the UK).

Experience

  • advising AnaCap Financial Partners LLP on its acquisition of the IFG International Division from IFG Group Plc and related merger control concerns
  • advised Lebedev Holdings on UK merger control considerations in connection with its acquisition of a majority shareholding in The London Evening Standard newspaper
  • advising the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in connection with judicial review proceedings initiated by easyJet concerning the Authority's decision in setting the price cap for charges at London Gatwick from 2008 to 2013
  • representing Dura Vermeer, one of the largest Dutch building companies in its appeal to the General Court in the Dutch bitumen cartel case
  • handling an investigation by the Belgian Competition Authority into an alleged “hub and spoke” cartel in the fast moving consumer goods sector
  • assisting an research and development consortium in a European Commission State aid investigation
  • advising the authorities of a Member State on proposed subsidies to infrastructure projects in the transport sector
  • assisting the European Commission in Cases T-196/09, T-196/09R and T-350/09 before the General Court in Luxembourg (annulment procedures relating to a decision to select operators of pan European systems providing mobile satellite services)
  • preparing a complaint to the European Commission on abuse of IP rights in technology markets (standard essential patents and FRAND licensing obligations)
  • advised the shareholders of Dutch energy company Essent on the unbundling of Essent and the €9.3bn sale of its commercial business to RWE (cleared by the European Commission)
  • representing several Asian clients in relation to multi-jurisdictional cartel investigations
  • representing the European Commission in its defence before the General Court in the Dutch brewers cartel case
  • advising GALP in connection with an appeal to the General Court against the European Commission's decision in the Spanish bitumen cartel
  • advised HMV on its acquisition of a number of Zavvi stores in the UK. Office of Fair Trading clearance was given on the basis of the "failing firm" arguments advanced on behalf of our client
  • advising HMV on a number of competition law matters, both transactional and behavioural, including the disposal of its Live Music business, involving a notification to the UK Office of Fair Trading
  • advising various financial institutions on competition law issues relating to the creation of platforms and trade discussion bodies, including the risks of potential information exchange and exclusion of competitors
  • representing various clients in investigatory proceedings in front of the European Commission and the national competition and regulatory authorities
  • representing HTC Corporation with its competition law defences in patent infringement proceedings in Germany
  • advising Hynix on its Article 102 TFEU complaint to the European Commission against Rambus in a case involving competition law/intellectual property interface issues
  • acting for leading jet fuel companies in an appeal from a decision of the Italian Competition Authority relating to a finding of abuse of dominance
  • advising Kier Group in connection with the Office of Fair Trading's investigation into bid-rigging in the construction sector in the UK and on its subsequent appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal
  • successfully defended Peijnenburg in a landmark court case against Albert Heijn in the Netherlands in relation to alleged resale price maintenance
  • advising a number of pharmaceutical clients in connection with the European Commission's enquiry into the pharmaceutical sector
  • advising Sharp in its defence against two claims brought by Nokia in the High Court of England and Wales for antitrust damages
  • advising Veolia Water UK on a range of issues, including the disposal of its regulate UK water business and the unification of its three regulated water businesses
  • acting for a mobile phone manufacturer in an abuse of dominance case before the Spanish Commercial Court.

Specialist Expertise

Our international team advises on a wide range of competition issues. We provide a tailor made strategy for our clients along with a commercial approach to ensure the right route for our client.

The focus of our practice is on the following key areas:

Investigations and Complaints

We advise on investigations by and complaints to the EU and national competition authorities, ensuring that the legal and economic issues relevant to our clients' circumstances are properly considered. We help clients to put in place audit mechanisms, in order to detect possible infringements and provide guidance and training on how to handle on site investigations (dawn raids). Much of the cartel work which we undertake involves complex multijurisdictional issues and in a number of jurisdictions increasingly requires consideration of potential criminal liability. We have hands on experience of cutting edge abuse of dominance cases, frequently involving a deep understanding of the interface between intellectual property rights and competition law.

We continue to represent financial institutions on a regular basis, in part because we have longstanding relationships in this sector, but also due to the tighter regulation in the industry and the increased enforcement activities of the European Commission, National Competition Authorities and regulatory bodies including those with their own powers such as the FCA in the UK. We have advised on a series of matters involving information exchange, creation and operation of platforms and participation in setting benchmarks.

Competition Litigation, including private enforcement

Our expertise enables us to devise litigation strategies which take account of the issues presented by differences in procedures and practice across jurisdictions.

Competition Litigation is a growing area of competition, reflecting the significant developments which are taking place both at the EU and national level. Our focused industry sector approach, coupled with our expertise in competition law and commercial litigation, makes us well placed to assist clients involved in competition litigation, be they standalone actions or actions by way of follow on to a decision of a competition authority. We have well experienced antitrust litigation teams in the three main jurisdictions for private enforcement, ie Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. Our practice includes representing clients on appeal procedures against decisions of enforcement authorities before national courts, the EU General Court and the EU Court of Justice.

Merger Control

We handle EU and national merger filings as well as coordinating multi-jurisdictional filings, where our role is to ensure that the appropriate clearances in all applicable jurisdictions are obtained within the desired transaction timetable. We have extensive experience in advising strategic buyers, including in the deal planning stage, on transactions that involve substantive competition law questions and deals that involve complex regulatory questions.

Commercial Agreements

We advise on the application of competition law to all kinds of commercial practices and agreements including joint ventures, distribution and licensing agreements, where our aim is to offer practical solutions to competition law problems and to ensure that important commercial provisions can be enforced.

Regulatory

We advise a variety of regulated companies, particularly in the transport, water, energy, life sciences and TMT sectors. We also advise regulators in several sectors, including transport and postal services, and we participate in policy formulation through our work on policy bodies and consultations.

State aid

We advise on the application of the EU State aid rules and give advice to clients on the presence of State aid in projects that are contemplated and on the procedural consequences. We also assist clients in structuring a proposed subsidies package in order to make it State aid proof. We further litigate in national courts, present complaints, assist State authorities on beneficiaries of State Aid in the notification process in Brussels and handle investigations, and where appropriate assist in the appeal procedure before the EU courts in Luxembourg.

Compliance, including advice on compliance programmes

Companies risk significant fines, follow on damages claims, loss of reputation, negative publicity and a harmful impact on share value if members of staff break competition rules and the company is found guilty. In some jurisdictions, including the UK and Ireland, criminal sanctions can be imposed. Building a compliance culture reduces the risks - in this case, prevention truly is better than cure. Every company should have a competition compliance policy, a clear set of procedures, and a compliance training programme in place, tailored to its business, its industry and the type of contacts that will expose its employees to risk. We regularly assist clients on compliance issues and setting up compliance programmes. We are very conscious that one size does not fit all and we tailor make each programme to ensure it is exactly right for our client.