King & Wood Mallesons

Competition/Antitrust Department

Australia
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What the team is known for Well-staffed, comprehensive competition/antitrust offering with global reach and a particularly impressive, fully integrated regional network, noted for its engagement with large, complex mandates. Merger clearance experience extends to the representation of major multinational clients on the acquisition of Australian targets, and the litigation practice frequently acts on high-profile prosecutions. Notably active on behalf of blue-chip clients from the financial services, pharmaceutical, resources and telecommunications sectors and adept in the handling of access issues and other matters in the energy and infrastructure spaces. A conspicuously loyal clientele benefits from the firm's in-depth knowledge of the ACCC, state and Commonwealth regulatory bodies and industry associations.

Strengths The team's ability to engage head-on with the most difficult issues and respond swiftly and practically is highlighted by a client who reports: "The technical expertise of that team is as good as it gets: one can call and have a conversation on a complex matter and come away with a practical and commercial piece of advice; that's invaluable and hard to find." Another, concurring that the practice is "technically excellent," adds that it is "really practical and pragmatic, indicating what is likely to happen and what is likely to work." A third simply observes: "The quality of their work product and spot-on advice is stellar."

Several clients emphasise the long-standing nature of their relationships with this practice and the trust which develops as a result. One interviewee reports that the lawyers provide "extraordinary client service, always come through on some pretty unreasonable asks and have our best interests at heart." Another says: "They are incredibly inclusive to work with and one always feels that one is in the same tent, working to the same objective; it's that sense of camaraderie that distinguishes them."     

Work highlights Advised Fairfax Media on all competition aspects of its AUD4.2 billion merger with Nine Entertainment, one of the largest media transactions of recent years and subject to intense market and regulatory scrutiny.

Notable practitioners

Caroline Coops focuses principally on regulatory and contentious issues, attracting especially strong praise from one interviewee as "the pre-eminent practitioner in Australia for advertising work." The same source adds: "I like using her because, in addition to a command of the law as strong as you would expect, she brings a healthy dose of pragmatism and a level of independence to her advice that I highly appreciate." Another client states: "Caroline has been my go-to partner in this space for many years and I regard her as the best in her field."

Lisa Huett 's skills have lately been applied to mandates as varied as a global merger, cartel-related court proceedings and regulatory investigation and court action in the 'truth in labelling' sphere. One client cites her for an "outstanding contribution" to a matter, while another, referring to an "as tough as it gets" interaction with the ACCC, states: "The strategic mindset she brings to this sort of litigation has been invaluable – not just technical skill, but unique insight and understanding."

Peta Stevenson focuses on contentious competition issues and is particularly familiar with the way they impact on financial services sector clients. One market source's observation that "clients love her" is borne out by the testimony of another interviewee, who says: "She's a formidable and very skilled advocate who has really taken the time to understand our business and culture – a rare and valuable trait."

Sharon Henrick heads the practice and operates across the competition scene, offering particularly rich experience in the management of large-scale transactional mandates of national or international significance. One contributor reports: "Sharon has great commercial understanding of our business and industry, outstanding legal expertise and is consistently calm and collected under pressure." A second values both her "strategic mindset" and the "very strong relationship with the ACCC" which makes the Commission "likely to listen to her."   

Wayne Leach advises extensively on the competition aspects of a wide variety of transaction types and on clients' responses to regulatory investigation. Interviewees describe him as an "excellent and approachable communicator who breaks things down into bite-sized pieces to provide sensible, quick and not over-technical advice" and as a "highly valued, principled, practical and persuasive advocate for the company."