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
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.