Legal Business

US firms lead in Europe as Franco-German merger creates new rail giant

US firms lead in Europe as Franco-German merger creates new rail giant

Latham and Cleary advise as Siemens and Alstom combine

US law firms took the lead as Siemens agreed to combine its transport operations with former rival Alstom in a merger of equals to counter the threat from China to the European railway industry.

Legal Business

Akin Gump reveals trainee salary increases, as NQ pay remains static yet competitive

Akin Gump reveals trainee salary increases, as NQ pay remains static yet competitive

Akin Gump has increased trainee salaries by 12% and 8% for first and second years respectively, with the group representing the first trainees the US firm has taken on, while its newly qualified (NQ) pay remained static this financial year.

The trainees, who are set to qualify this autumn, are Akin’s only trainee intake and were formed when it took over Bingham McCutchen’s London office in 2015.

Despite only starting a trainee programme in 2015, Akin is raising incoming first-year trainee pay from £43,000 to £48,000, and second-year salaries from £48,000 to £52,000.

The US firm’s first-year pay packets are also competitive, equal to that of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and only trumped by Debevoise & Plimpton at £50,000, according to Lex100.

NQ pay at the firm remains £112,500 at current exchange rates. The firm last increased NQ remuneration levels in September 2016 from £100,000.

This, however, remains one of the most competitive NQ rates on the market, with peers such as Jones Day last week announcing an increase of up to £100,000, while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom pays NQs up to £118,000, according to Lex100.

The firm has up to four trainee places available for its next intake in 2019, receiving around 300 applications per year, and the salary increases will be effective from September 2017.

Akin’s director of international legal recruiting and development in London Victoria Widdows said trainees at Akin ‘quickly become an integral part of the London office and we want to ensure that salaries are reflective of this at the top end of the market, as is the case with our NQ salaries’.

Georgiana.tudor@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Cleary, CC and Covington lead as EC fine Google €2.4bn for abuse of dominance in online shopping comparison

Cleary, CC and Covington lead as EC fine Google €2.4bn for abuse of dominance in online shopping comparison

The European Commission (EC) has today (27 June) fined Google €2.4bn for abuse of dominance as a search engine, illegally promoting its own comparison shopping service above others in breach of antitrust law, creating expectations of a raft of damages claims based on the finding.

 The EC told the global company to end its illegal conduct within 90 days or face penalties of up to 5% of Google’s parent company Alphabet’s average daily worldwide turnover.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton competition partner Maurits Dolmans and Brussels partners Thomas Graf and Robbert Snelders acted for Google. Julia Holz co-ordinated Google’s in-house defence.

Clifford Chance partner Thomas Vinje represented 15-company consortium Fairsearch which submitted evidence in relation to rival shopping services in the case, including as Foundem, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Trivago. 

Covington & Burling’s Miranda Cole advised Expedia, TripAdvisor and Trivago. 

Today, Fairsearch stated that the decision ‘sets a powerful precedent’ that the EC can use to restore competition on other specialised online search services, such as those for travel.

Competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that Google’s strategy for its comparison shopping service had not just attracted customers ‘by making its product better’ than rivals but instead had ‘abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors.’

Google’s activity was ‘illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate.’ It also ‘denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,’ she said.

The EC also said that as a result of its practices, Google’s comparison shopping service is far more visible to consumers in Google’s search results than rivals’ comparison shopping services, which are pushed down and less visible.

A Google spokesperson said today that the company will consider appealing the decision. It said that its shopping comparison service connects ‘users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.’

 

While the EC could have fined Google up to 10% of its annual global turnover, Peter Willis, EU competition co-head at Bird & Bird described the case as ‘significant’ partly for being largest EC fine to date on a single company.

‘It’s likely to be portrayed as another instance of the Commission bashing US tech companies’, but the EC’s position ‘will be that it has fined Google not because it is a large US tech company, but because it has abused its dominant market position by squeezing out its rivals in related markets’, he added.

There is likely to be ‘a series of damages claims brought by the rivals that were excluded from the market by Google’s conduct.  They will be able to use the decision as the basis for a damages claim before the national courts.’

The EC’s decision will ‘establish Google’s liability and a damages claim will in principle be limited to establishing the loss,’ Willis added.

In 2004, the EC fined €497m Microsoft for illegally leveraging its dominant position.

Google’s search engine provides search results to consumers who pay for the service with their data, according to the EC. Nearly all of Google’s revenues come from advertising, many shown on a consumer search.

The EC said that Google’s search algorithms had ‘systematically’ promoted its own comparison shopping service to consumers at the top of the page on a Google search while demoting rival comparison shopping services.

The decision followed a seven year investigation into Google’s online shopping comparison service.

Foundem originally accused Google in 2009 of lowering its ranking on the search engine in favour of its own companies.  In July 2016, the EC released a statement of objections that Google abused its dominant market position by ‘systematically favouring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages.’

Google later sought to defend its position on the basis that the accusations and evidence represented just ‘the interests of a small number of websites.’

Kent Walker, general counsel at Google, has blogged that the EC’s case ‘doesn’t fit the reality of how most people shop online.’ Walker argued that rather than looking for products on a search engine, consumers reach merchant websites in many different ways such as social media websites and online advertisements.

There are currently two separate investigations pending into Google, one regarding its use of the Android operating system and another into its AdSense service. 

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk and miriam.kenner@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Cleary defends Google in face of potential €1bn EC antitrust shopping market abuse fine

Cleary defends Google in face of potential €1bn EC antitrust shopping market abuse fine

The European Commission’s (EC) probe of Google’s online shopping practices is reported to be closing in coming months with a potential €1bn (£875m) fine, in a case in which Clifford Chance (CC), Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Covington & Burling all act. 

For seven years, the European regulator has been investigating allegations that Google favours its own online shopping price comparison services above others on its search engine, abusing its dominant market position in breach of antitrust law.

According to media reports, the Brussels-based agency is nearing a decision on a fine against the company.

In 2009, UK price comparison website Foundem accused Google of lowering its ranking on the search engine in favour of its own companies. At least 30 other similar complaints soon followed from companies such as Microsoft, Expedia and TripAdvisor.

The fine is expected to break the EC’s previous record in relation to an technology company antitrust breach after it fined Intel €1.06 billion in May 2009 for granting favourable rebates to companies such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo, for acquiring all or nearly all of their chips from Intel. 

The EC opened this Google antitrust case in 2010. In July 2016, the EC formally stated that Google ‘has abused its dominant position by systematically favouring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages.’ Google denied the allegations and delayed its response.

The EC is concerned that Google promotes its own services its rivals’ cost to the ‘detriment of consumers’ who have to pay more due to resulting market distortion. It also claims that Google’s conduct ‘stifles innovation’ in the market for online shopping.

The EC also sent a statement of objections to Google in relation to advertising. According to the EC, Google restricted the ability of certain third party websites to display search advertisements from its competitors. The three firms are also involved in this separate investigation.

Alphabet Group, a holding company, has owned the US multinational conglomerate and other Google subsidiaries since a corporate restructure in 2015.

Cleary’s London-based competition partner Maurits Dolmans and Brussels partners Thomas Graf and Robbert Snelders act are defending Google. Google’s internal competition lawyer Julia Holz co-ordinates the company’s in-house defence.

Led by partner Thomas Vinje, CC is advising Fairsearch, a 15-strong consortium with allegations against Google in the case. Covington & Burling’s Miranda Cole acts for Expedia, TripAdvisor and trivago.

In December 2016, Google’s UK and Ireland legal chief Emma Jelley left the company to join tech start-up Onfido as general counsel.

Jelley had overseen the company’s legal affairs in the UK and Ireland for eight years.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

 

 

 

Legal Business

Too big to fail

Too big to fail

Experienced financial regulation partner Bob Penn, who moved to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton last year and advised HSBC on the controversial bank ring-fencing reforms while at Allen & Overy (A&O), is clear on whether those reforms are fit for purpose. ‘This is a hugely unwelcome and disruptive process, and frankly yet another distraction from running a profitable bank at a time when they are already facing a cascade of regulatory reform and the prospect of Brexit.’

Legal Business

‘No justiciable defence’: Cleary, NRF and Quinn to go another round in $3bn Russian bond dispute

‘No justiciable defence’: Cleary, NRF and Quinn to go another round in $3bn Russian bond dispute

Partners from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Norton Rose Fulbright and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan are set to go another round as Ukraine has vowed to appeal a pre-trial decision over a $3bn Russian bond repayment.

The High Court has ruled that Ukraine did not provide a ‘justiciable defence’ in the case, heard in London’s recently created financial court.

The case relates to a $3bn loan Russia made out to Ukraine in December 2013 in the form of a Eurobond. The Law Debenture Trust Corporation is the trustee of the bond, which was arranged by White & Case and Clifford Chance.

Ukraine argued the loan was made as part of wider Russian economic and military pressure to prevent Ukraine from signing an EU Association Agreement at the Vilnius Summit in November 2013. In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea.

But following a pre-trial hearing, Justice Blair concluded: ‘The threats of the use of force by Russia which are relied upon by Ukraine as vitiating the Eurobond transaction fall within the foreign act of state doctrine as issues upon which the court should refrain from adjudicating.

‘This is a claim for repayment of debt instruments to which the court has held that there is no justiciable defence.’

Quinn partner Alex Gerbi lead for Ukraine and Norton Rose’s financial disputes partner Michael Godden acted for The Law Debenture Trust Corporation, the trustee directed by Russia’s Ministry of Finance to bring the case. Cleary acted for the Russian government, with a team including partners David Sabel and Jonathan Kelly.

Norton Rose instructed Brick Court’s Mark Howard QC and Oliver Jones. Fountain Court Chambers’ Bankim Thanki QC and Simon Atrill and Essex Court Chambers’ Malcolm Shaw QC were enlisted by Quinn.

In August 2015, Weil, Gotshal & Manges and White & Case acted as the lead advisers as Ukraine struck a debt-relief deal on its $18bn sovereign debt pile in a bid to rebuild its fragile economy.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Cleary loses partner to Simmons as Jenner & Block adds from White & Case

Revolving doors: Cleary loses partner to Simmons as Jenner & Block adds from White & Case

In a busy week for London appointments, Haynes and Boone, Simmons & Simmons and Jenner & Block have all made hires.

Simmons has boosted its capital markets group with the arrival of Simon Ovenden, who will join the firm’s London office as a partner from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on 1 May 2017. The hire follows the similar appointment of Jonathan Mellor, who joined Simmons’ capital markets group from Allen & Overy in January 2017.

Ovenden has a background in representing financial institutions in jurisdictions ranging from the US to Nigeria and Pakistan.

Haynes and Boone has made a string of simultaneous hires, bringing in Emma Russell, Zoe Connor and Andreas Silcher.

Russell and Connor join Haynes and Boone’s London office as partners, where they will advise on a broad range of finance transactions. Russell joins from Carey Olsen while, Connor, joins from Ashurst where she was a senior associate.

Silcher rejoins the firm after a tenure as general counsel of the liquefied natural gas division of the Cardiff/Dryships group. An expert in oil and gas, Silcher said: ‘Haynes and Boone CDG is extremely well known and respected for its work in the shipbuilding and offshore energy sectors.

‘I’m excited to help build on that reputation and to also be part of a full-service firm that is quickly expanding its English law capability and global reach.’

Also adding to its London capacity is Jenner & Block, hiring Jason Yardley as a litigation partner.

Yardley, who has over two decades of international litigation and arbitration experience, has acted in cases concerning the TMT sector in addition to banking, finance and mining. Yardley joins from White & Case where he spent almost 17 years litigating disputes across Europe, North America, Africa and Asia and sat on the firm’s partnership committee. The move reunites Yardley with his former White & Case colleague Charlie Lightfoot, who is Jenner & Block’s London managing partner.

In South Africa, Bowmans has hired Nicolas Bonnefoy as a partner in its oil and gas sector. Bonnefoy, who will join the firm’s Johannesburg office, had previously been involved in acquisitions and disposals of oil and gas assets throughout Africa.

Previously of Ashurst, Bonnefoy said: ‘I am deeply impressed by the Oil and Gas team, which combines industry expertise, local teams in Africa, as well as African- and English-qualified solicitors. The oil & gas offering is therefore comprehensive and competitive.’

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Linklaters, Cleary and White & Case advise as Glencore and Qatar take stake in Rosneft

Linklaters, Cleary and White & Case advise as Glencore and Qatar take stake in Rosneft

Linklaters, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and White & Case are advising as Glencore and the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA) offer to take a €10.5bn stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft.

The privatisation deal for 19.5% of Rosneft is yet to be completed, with the Russian state-owned oil firm forced to negotiate the sale around international sanctions. Despite the volatility of the transaction, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a public statement confirming the deal.

Legal Business understands Linklaters is advising Glencore, a long term client of senior partner Charlie Jacobs. Corporate partner and mining sector head David Avery-Gee is also a key adviser to the mining giant. Others from Linklaters team on the deal include finance partner Toby Grimstone and corporate partner Hugo Stolkin.

Cleary Gottlieb is advising the QIA on its side of the deal, while White & Case has been employed by Rosneft on the deal, with Doha-based corporate partner Michiel Visser understood to be acting on the transaction.

The deal to acquire the stake in Rosneft has been highly contentious due to sanctions against Russia from the US and the European Union. Glencore said it would commit just €300m in equity for around 220,000 barrels of oil a day, with the funds for the acquisition of shares provided by QIA.

On Wednesday (7 December), the Kremlin issued a press release claiming the privatisation deal for 19.5% of Rosneft had been completed.

However, Glencore subsequently released a statement claiming the company was still in ‘final stage negotiations’ on the deal.

In another recent mandate for Glencore earlier this year, Linklaters’ Avery-Gee advised on a $2.5bn sale of a stake in its agricultural arm to a Canadian pension fund, which was advised by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Linklaters, Cleary Gottlieb and White & Case all declined to comment.

matthew.field@legalease.co.uk

Read more in: ‘Rain men – goodbye Harvard Kool-Aid, hello plain speaking at Linklaters’ c-suite’

 

Legal Business

Repeat business: Slaughters and Spanish best friend act as Santander buys back its asset management arm

Repeat business: Slaughters and Spanish best friend act as Santander buys back its asset management arm

Slaughter and May, its best friend Uria Menendez and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton have won roles advising on Santander’s buy back of its asset management business from private equity groups Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic.

Madrid-based Banco Santander sold 50% of its asset management business to the private equity houses in 2013, which had hoped to merge the business with UniCredit’s own asset management operation Pioneer before talks fell through earlier this year.

Santander Asset Management has €170bn of assets under management and generates €1.1bn of annual fee income.

Cleary advised Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic with a team including London based partners Simon Jay on corporate matters, Richard Sultman on tax issues and London/Milan based partner Carlo de Vito Piscicelli on financial aspects of the deal.

Slaughters advised Banco Santander alongside Madrid-based Uria Menendez. Corporate partner Michael Corbett led the Magic Circle firm’s team with M&A partner Antonio Herrera and Stephen Hess advising for Uria Menendez. The duo had advised Santander back in 2015 on the UniCredit deal which ultimately failed. Linklaters had advised UniCredit Pioneer Investments while Davis, Polk & Wardwell also acted alongside Slaughters.

Cleary acted for the PE houses on the original acquisition from Santander and then on their merger talks with UniCredit.
Jay told Legal Business: ‘This is another very interesting transaction with Santander. We’ve got to know them and their lawyers very well over the past two or three years and they’ve been very constructive around the transaction.’

In November it was revealed Santander UK had taken on Bank of Ireland’s general counsel John Bennett as its chief operating officer and senior counsel for legal and regulatory, joining a 35-strong team led by seasoned legal counsel John Collins, the bank’s director of legal, compliance, regulatory affairs and anti-money laundering.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Cleary ends City partner promotion drought by making up one in finance

Cleary ends City partner promotion drought by making up one in finance

One London lawyer has finally been made up at global firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, as the firm promotes eight this year. The firm’s US contingent has made up the rest of its global partnership round.

After two years without a promotion, this year Cleary has elected to promote one in the City. Its new London partner brings up the promotion round by one following last year’s boost of seven.

Finance lawyer Jim Ho will become a partner on January 1, 2017. Currently advising a large CIS metals and mining company on its $5.7bn debt financings, Ho has previously guided UC RUSAL in its $5.15bn restructuring and the Truvo Group in its completed global restructuring. Ho has also advised Hellenic Republic on a number of complex transactions, including its €7.16bn bridge loan from the EU under the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism and its €206bn bond exchange that formed a key component of the country’s EU assistance package.

Across Cleary, four have been made up in the firm’s New York headquarters while three will join the Washington DC office. The promotions bring the firm’s total partner headcount to 195. According to the Global 100, Cleary’s headcount in the City fell by 3% in 2015 to 117 fee earners. However over a five year track the firm’s headcount in London has lifted by 26%.

Other US firms to release their partner promotions this year include White & Case which bolstered its partnership by 40 this year, an increase of 23% on last year’s numbers with eight made up in the City. Kirkland & Ellis also announced it had made six up to partner in London in an 81-strong global partner promotion round while Ropes & Gray promoted two in its partner round of 11 this year.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

The full list of promotions:

Nowell Bamberger, disputes, Washington

Daniel Culley, antitrust,  Washington

David Herrington, litigation,  New York

Jim Ho, finance,  London

Aaron Meyers, M&A,  New York

Kenneth Reinker, antitrust,  Washington

Daniel Reynolds, real estate, New York

Kimberly Spoerri, M&A, New York