JUVE Law Firm of the year

Antitrust

Antitrust takes center stage in corporate governance

Not so long ago, companies found guilty of violating antitrust law paid a fine and that was it. Nowadays, customers can be expected to make damages claims. And the larger trend toward stricter corporate governance requirements leads to intensive liability disputes. In short: antitrust law is increasingly the boss’s concern. Policymakers have to engage with this issue as well, as the arguments over government permission for the merger of Edeka and Tengelmann show. The Federal Cartel Office’s (FCO) level of engagement in economic policy can be seen in its activities in the digital economy, such as online payment systems.

All these elements came together in the truck cartel case: the European Commission (EC) issued record fines amounting to €3 billion. Already during the cartel case, participants were honing their defense strategies in preparation for eventual damages claims – and supervisory boards and CEOs were already instructing their own firms to arm themselves against accusations of D&O liability. Antitrust damages claims are also the central issue in the ninth amendment to the Act against Restraints on Competition: the newly implemented EU guidelines could make the legal climate even friendlier to suits. New rules for merger controls in the Internet economy are also relevant to antitrust law reform – as is a new law closing the loophole that allows companies to avoid fines by restructuring themselves.

Good times for antitrust lawyers

For antitrust lawyers, increased demand for advice and a huge increase in legal disputes mean greater profits. On top of this, at many firms the antitrust lawyers have become part of compliance groups, e.g. at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gleiss Lutz or Kapellmann und Partner. Here all specialist groups have come to understand that division is counterproductive. The same is true of litigation practices; Hengeler Mueller recently named a partner at the interface of antitrust and litigation. The new guideline for damages claims, now coming into effect, could further accelerate the merging of the antitrust and litigation practices. SGP Schneider Geiwitz, known as an insolvency administration firm, appointed antitrust lawyers of its own in order to advise Schlecker’s creditors on damages claims against members of the sugar and drugstore item cartels.

The truck cartel promises to bring an even larger wave of suits. Practices that traditionally represent plaintiffs, such as Oppenländer, Osborne Clarke and Noerr, are profiting from this trend, but new participants are livening up the market as well: the boutique Wagner Legal joined litigation firm Hanefeld for one of the largest suits against the sugar cartel. US-based plaintiff firm Hausfeld opened its first German office in Berlin with strong ambitions. Even the litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is breaking away from its niche in patent law to undertake a suit against the cement cartel amounting to millions of euros on behalf of plaintiff organization CDC.

 


 

The following entries deal with firms that have very different focuses and interfaces for their antitrust advice. Antitrust law overlaps substantially with ?distribution, ?state aid, ?public procurement and ?compliance. Those chapters also contain relevant information about antitrust specialists, as do the chapters on ?media, ?telecoms, ?pharmaceuticals and healthcare and ?energy.


PfeilJUVE Law Firm of the year