Herbert Smith Freehills

Competition/Antitrust Department

Australia
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What the team is known for Global, regional and national depth of practice, bolstered by integration of competition expertise across the firm's international network and close collaboration with corporate and dispute resolution colleagues. The team is also noted for its vigorous defence of ACCC enforcement proceedings, its frequent representation of leading energy sector players in regulatory investigations and its focus on market behavioural issues in the financial services sphere. Contentious competition law experience embraces both involvement in Full Federal Court and Competition Tribunal proceedings and increasing activity in private actions alleging the contravention of competition law provisions. Acts for blue-chip clients across a comprehensive range of industry sectors, notably including energy, financial services, infrastructure and telecommunications.

Strengths More than one interviewee singles out this practice as "a key go-to for bet-the-farm matters." One source reports that it "performed better than other competition teams with which I have worked" in a context in which "the competition issues were difficult and the factual matrices extremely complex." Another remarks: "We use Herbert Smith Freehills when matters are particularly complex and important, and for the toughest matters, especially those involving the ACCC."

Clients also connect the team's proficiency in this sphere with its broader commercial renown. "They have excellent breadth and depth of competition experience, linked to their overall corporate expertise," says one, "and are able to put the two together in a very seamless way which allows them to be very creative in their solutions."     

Work highlights Advised Citi on its prosecution by the ACCC and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for allegedly criminal involvement in an institutional placement by an ASX-listed entity, a case which represents the first instance of the ACCC alleging criminal cartel activity in relation to security trading and thus a previously untested area of competition law.

Notable practitioners

Practice leader Liza Carver receives an exceptionally high level of feedback testifying to her status as one of a tiny handful of Australian competition practitioners who are "really in a league of their own" and "playing a different game to the rest." Interviewees further cite her "terrific reputation as a bet-the-company lawyer" and "real understanding of the dynamics of the ACCC and what you need to do to manage a process." Her "great ability to connect competition issues to business requirements in a very practical way" draws praise, as does the fact that "even though exceptionally busy, she is very available and provides consistently sound advice."

Matthew Bull maintains a versatile practice, covering both transactional and market behavioural matters, and offers particular familiarity with the infrastructure and resources sectors. One client says: "He's someone I trust and, unlike some theoretical or academic lawyers, very pragmatic and commercial and very good at giving advice in the style we have asked for."

Patrick Gay is well known for his handling of merger clearance mandates, including those especially likely to attract close ACCC scrutiny or challenge. Interviewees value him not only for his "very good knowledge of competition law," but also as a "responsive and commercial adviser with an open, friendly personality, who's good with clients and presents well to the ACCC." "I would certainly use him again," says one client.