Competition Law

Anti-competitive behaviour is an increasingly global phenomenon; it is now common for multiple enforcement agencies to pursue many companies across several continents. The cases are bigger, the steps taken to conceal the activities ever more creative, and many more businesses are affected by the actions of the cartel members.

Fines alone are not seen by enforcement agencies as a sufficient deterrent. As a result, steps are being taken to make it easier for those who have suffered loss to bring private damages actions. The UK is one of the preferred places to bring such an action; with the development of funding mechanisms, which minimise the costs of bringing a claim, finances are no longer a barrier to justice. This is great news for those suffering a loss and a serious concern for businesses facing an investigation and the prospect of fines and damages claims.

Never has there been a greater need for businesses to ensure their compliance procedures are robust and for Boards and Directors to understand their duties. If an investigation looms, the Board needs to know what will happen and how to respond, both as regards the business and key individuals.  If a further incentive to take compliance seriously is required, there is criminal liability for senior executives in the UK and the possibility of Director Disqualification.

Why we are different

Our competition practice advises claimants and defendants, individuals and institutions, on all aspects of competition law. We handle both Civil and Criminal investigations by the regulators and our low levels of conflict enable us to act for parties across all sectors. We are experts in managing investigations across a number of jurisdictions; choosing and dealing with overseas professionals on behalf of, and as the contact for, our clients.

Competition claims

We treat a client's claim as an asset to be recovered. We use experienced economists, forensic accountants and financial analysts to investigate our client's claim and provide comprehensive risk assessments.

We have strong relationships with litigation funders and insurers who best understand the nature of these actions. Working together, we are able to help our clients secure packages that minimise their financial exposure.

The competition practice is bolstered by our 80 strong fraud and complex litigation department, which focuses on asset recovery and is renowned for its ability to convert claims into a swift financial outcome. This gives us an edge in competition disputes and other commercial disputes where competition law may be an issue.

Competition investigations

Our defence lawyers specialise in risk management. They advise businesses caught up in investigations into alleged competition law breaches, as well as individuals facing potential criminal sanctions or Director Disqualification. Our detailed understanding of the processes, coupled with our knowledge of the enforcement agencies, enables us to advise Boards and individuals on how best to respond in any given situation.

Risk management

We are not solely a crisis team. We work with our corporate clients to devise pro-active risk management strategies and compliance procedures, testing their effectiveness through the use of "mock" dawn raids and business audits. A good compliance procedure manages risk but does not stifle growth and innovation. Our lawyers understand this dynamic and take the time to establish what is best for each organisation.

Mergers and markets

We work with our corporate department to provide transactional competition law advice, including advice on the merger process, the use of tactical complaints, and applications for merger clearances where required.  When market inquiries are launched, we assist key parties to ensure all submissions are effective and targeted, mitigating the risk of problematic outcomes.

Other services

We assist our real estate team providing advice on restrictive covenants and state aid disputes.

In the arena of public contracts we advise aggrieved bidders wishing to challenge the outcome of procurement processes and procuring authorities in relation to their processes and challenges.

Recent Experience

Investigations
  • Advising the successful immunity applicant in the OFT's investigation into infringements of the Competition Act 1998 in the Mercedes Benz commercial vehicle dealer network
  • Advising individuals in relation to the UK Criminal Cartel Offence and the UK Regulator's covert surveillance powers
  • Undertaking an internal investigation into potential breaches of Competition Law and advising on appropriate remedial steps and disciplinary action
Competition Litigation
  • Advising Microsoft in relation to its claim against various manufacturers of lithium batteries in the UK High Court for breach of EU and various domestic competition laws.
  • Advising John Lewis Plc in relation to its claims against MasterCard and Visa in the UK High Court that the payment card schemes have illegally fixed the default multilateral interchange fee between issuing and acquiring banks.
  • Advising Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd in relation to its claim against MasterCard in the UK High Court and Competition Appeal Tribunal that MasterCard has illegally fixed the default multilateral interchange fee between issuing and acquiring banks. This was the lead case on interchange fees in the UK and highest ever competition damages award in Europe.
  • Advising the vendor of a pharmaceutical company in relation to a breach of competition law warranty claim in the Commercial Court arising out of a CMA investigation into a possible abuse of dominant position by the target company.
  • Advising a major technology giant on competition recovery in Europe, as part of the Firm's role as strategic adviser on European recovery work.
  • Advising a party in relation to the possible legal risks to it following the OFT's 2011 Decision fining pharmaceutical company, Reckitt Benckiser, for breach of the Chapter II Prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 (abuse of a dominant position) and the follow on damages claims brought in the UK High Court by the Department for Health and generic competitors.
  • Advising an agrichemicals manufacturer in relation to competition law defences raised in a commercial contract defence in the UK Commercial Court.
  • Advising a joint venture between two major oil companies in relation to its claim in the Chancery Division and Court of Appeal against the owner of a port alleging various abuses of a dominant position and related claims under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
Mergers and Markets
  • Acting for one of the main parties involved in the Private Motor Insurance sector inquiry
  • Providing multi-jurisdictional merger control advice in relation to a transaction in the IT sector
  • Making submissions to the CMA in relation to the WGSN/Stylesight completed merger
  • Assisting a competitor with its submissions to the CMA in relation to the Japan Tobacco International/E-Lites proposed merger
Advisory
  • Advice on information exchanges and benchmarking in the FMCG, insurance, financial services and retail sectors
  • Advising aggrieved parties in relation to potential complaints to the CMA and the FCA alleging a variety of abuses of a dominant position
  • Advising on the enforceability of user restrictions in leases including rebutting spurious claims of unenforceability.
State Aid
  • Advising as to whether particular types of funding for major development projects constitute state aid
Trade
  • Advising a recipient of an anti-dumping questionnaire
  • Advising on the impact of EU sanctions/trade defence measures and potential challenges

Related services

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