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Antitrust and competition

Competition and antitrust laws around the world are rapidly evolving.

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.

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.

Our competition practice offers unrivaled knowledge and experience in international and national competition law matters all over the world. We have a large, highly integrated team of leading dedicated lawyers on the ground in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

We deliver unique strength and depth of advice across all aspects of competition law, including mergers (where we have a track record developing highly innovative remedies), cartel investigations, abuse of dominance, state aid, follow-on claims and stand-alone litigation. Freshfields has worked on the leading cases in all these areas.

Client successes

We acted for Anheuser-Busch InBev on its $106bn acquisition of SABMiller, which created one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies.

  • The deal concluded in 2016 and was subject to regulatory clearances in more than 30 countries and required remedies including a significant disposal of assets across the United States, Europe and Asia.
  • The merger was named Global Deal of the Year 2016 by The American Lawyer and Freshfields’ role was commended as “Standout” in the 2016 Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards.

We advised CK Hutchison on its recent wave of telecoms acquisitions across Europe.

  • Three separate four-to-three consolidations in Austria, Ireland and Italy (and a fourth proposed transaction in the UK).
  • Each of these involved strategic and innovative advice in the face of in-depth scrutiny and remedies examination by the European Commission and national regulatory authorities.

We have been acting for global investment banks on multijurisdictional investigations into alleged rate manipulation in the FOREX and LIBOR markets.

  • LIBOR was the largest global investigation post-crisis, involving antitrust and financial services regulatory elements, and more than 25 regulators in more than 10 countries.

We are defending MasterCard against one of the first major opt-out collective actions under the new regime introduced by the UK’s Consumer Rights Act 2015.

  • Brought on behalf of a class of around 46 million UK consumers for a total of £14bn in damages, this is the largest claim ever brought before the UK courts.

We acted for Boehringer Ingelheim on the global coordination of its €22bn asset swap with Sanofi.

  • The deal transformed the parties into global leaders in animal health and consumer healthcare respectively.
  • It prompted merger filings in over 20 countries around the globe, including a rare triple “fix-it-first” Phase I clearance from the European Commission.

We acted for BAML in its successful defense of two European Commission investigations and a US DOJ investigation into alleged infringements in the credit default swaps (CDS) market.

  • Unusually, the Commission dropped its investigation against our client after having formally stated its objections to the parties.

We are advising J&J, a leading global medical device, pharmaceutical and consumer goods company, on the global merger control aspects of its $30bn cash acquisition of Swiss biotech company Actelion Ltd, known for its specialty high blood pressure portfolio. The transaction, announced in February 2017, is the largest in J&J’s history and marks the first pharmaceutical megadeal of 2017.