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Clifford Chance rebuilds competition team with plum hire from the CMA

Just one week after losing star competition partner Alastair Mordaunt to Magic Circle rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance has hired the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) director of mergers Nelson Jung as a City partner.

Jung (pictured) returns to Clifford Chance six years after leaving the Magic Circle firm to join the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). He became a director of mergers at the OFT in 2013, leading the growth of regulator’s merger control function, before assuming the same role when the OFT was replaced with the CMA a year later.

The exit means the CMA has lost its two directors of mergers in just two months, with US firm Latham & Watkins having hired Jung’s colleague Jonathan Parker in February as it builds out its full service offering. The competition watchdog has been plagued by high staff turnover since it launched, and the granting of competition powers to the Financial Conduct Authority last year has not helped matters, with the City regulator bringing in a string of big names from the lower paying CMA.

Nelson has overseen the CMA’s merger caseload during his time at the CMA and has led on its position on EU merger policy. He also represented the CMA in significant mergers going through the European Commission, including GE on its $14bn purchase of French power support Alstom, and has played a lead role in the CMA’s contributions to the European Commission’s Digital Single Market agenda.

Most recently, Nelson took the lead role in the CMA’s assessment of Muller’s acquisition of Dairy Crest, a case that had originally been notified with the European Commission. He also oversaw the CMA’s recent conditional merger control clearance of the InterCity East Coast rail franchise award and led the merger control assessment of Greene King’s acquisition of Spirit Pub Company.

Clifford Chance global head of corporate Guy Norman said: ‘As antitrust regimes across the world become more challenging, a well-executed merger control strategy can be critical to the success of an M&A transaction. Nelson’s deep understanding of the UK and European regulators will further strengthen our leading team as we help our corporate clients to navigate the risks and opportunities this new landscape brings.’

As well as Mordaunt, Clifford Chance lost several high-profile competition partners over the last few years, with global antitrust head Oliver Bretz and Brussels-based Johan Ysewyn exiting in 2014 to start a boutique practice and join Covington & Burling respectively.