Natalie Greenwood becomes Partner at Euclid Law

Euclid Law is pleased to announce that Natalie Greenwood will become a Partner with effect from April 2021 having joined as counsel in September 2019. Natalie, who is dual-qualified in the UK and Spain, has over 15 years’ experience and, prior to joining Euclid, worked as a lawyer at Lloyds Banking Group (where she was recognised as one of 30 most notable in-house competition professionals in her 30s) and as a senior associate at Clifford Chance. Natalie has extensive experience advising on all aspects of competition law, including cartels, mergers, behavioural antitrust matters and competition litigation. She has particular experience in financial services, in addition to a range of other sectors, including media and consumer goods.

Oliver Bretz, Managing Partner at Euclid Law, commented: “I am absolutely delighted that Natalie has agreed to join our Partnership.  She is already an invaluable member of the team and brings with her a wealth of experience and expertise, both in private practice and in-house. I have had the privilege to work with Natalie, both at Clifford Chance and at Euclid Law, and I am of the view that she will continue to be a great asset to Euclid and to our clients.”

Natalie Greenwood commented: “I am very happy to be taking this next step and joining the Partnership of Euclid Law. Euclid Law brings a unique combination of outstanding expertise in a boutique model.  I have found that this offering is very appealing to clients – and also makes it a great place to work.”

Notes to editors: Euclid Law is an award-winning boutique competition law firm with offices in London and Brussels, made up of 5 partners, 1 senior consultant and a team of outstanding paralegals.

What Is Stopping Brands from Adopting Selective Distribution? Three Common Myths Dispelled

by Becket McGrath

Selective distribution offers brands a ready-made and well established means of ensuring that their products are sold in a consistent and high-quality sales environment across Europe. It does so by limiting sales of a brand’s products to a network of resellers that meet its specified selective distribution criteria, with all others placed on the other side of the network’s protective moat. Resellers who commit to support a brand, for example through investment in point of sale materials, marketing spend, or staff training, are rewarded, while access to products by less committed retailers is cut off. As a result, the brand’s products are presented in the best light and competition between brands is enhanced.

Read Becket’s full ‘Brand Licensing’ article from Wolters Kluwer‘s October 2020 edition of The Licensing Journal here.

The Euclid formula – How I moved from Big law to a rather special boutique and lived to tell the tale

By Becket McGrath

There comes a time in one’s career where an opportunity arises that feels like a jump into the unknown. The question then becomes, do you stick to what you know and are used to or dare to take what looks like the riskier option?

As one of the partners who built up the Berwin Leighton Paisner EU and UK competition practice in the mid-2000s, a founding partner of the London office of US firm Cooley in 2015 and of that firm’s Brussels office in 2019, I was accustomed to building a high quality EU and UK law competition practice in a larger firm context.  Based on that experience, I was no stranger to risk, but it felt like time to take on the challenge of building such a practice in a smaller, more focused firm.

At a time of economic uncertainty, when so many workplaces are having to evolve rapidly, it provided some comfort that the Euclid team had already undertaken a radical change in how they do business. Founding partner Oliver Bretz and the rest of the team created something truly unique in the London market five years ago: a boutique firm entirely focused on providing expert EU and UK competition law advice to the highest possible standard, in a collegiate and nimble manner.  

Having watched the firm go from strength to strength, joining them for the next phase of this exciting venture right now turned out to be perfect timing. Indeed, the events of 2020 have demonstrated the benefits of our approach in a dramatic way, as we were already set up for remote working, including through the use of a cloud-based matter management platform. Our model also meant that we were not saddled with the high overheads associated with large City offices, support staff and teams of associates.

While joining Euclid Law in the middle of a national lockdown in June was certainly challenging, and felt far from playing it safe, it now turns out to have been less of a risk, as we are uniquely well-placed to ride out the current storm.  

Playing it safe vs. expert versatility

While traditional law firms largely maintain a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach, Euclid is like the pragmatic skink of New South Wales: we look at the risk and adapt to the environment in a way that best meets the overall objective. We approach each case with customised and personalised advice and work together with clients to explore the risks and uncertainties associated with different options for solving their issues. We then create a bespoke strategy tailored to their risk appetite and the ever-changing competition law environment. While the choice is ultimately the client’s, we are quite happy to take a view on the level of risk and provide the direction they need to make a decision.

Client feedback and case studies validate our business model. For example, when a global food retailer wanted to buy a competitor company, a big firm simply told them “no, too risky”, so they then turned to Euclid for a second opinion. We found that it was in fact possible, with some risk but minimum divestment prospects. It took a pragmatic approach to push through this high-yield deal.

We adopt a similar approach to UK merger notifications. While other firms might opt for a ‘one size fits all’ approach on whether to notify the authorities prior to a merger, we analyse each case’s risk profile in-depth, in the context of what is a highly dynamic CMA environment, and advise accordingly. We are not adverse to the client taking a calculated risk and will stick to our guns when we’re confident in our counsel.

Proudly Counter-Cultural

So, if we’re a lean partner-led team with a flexible fee structure that aims to produce the best results for clients, how is Euclid able to offer high quality, bespoke solutions and be profitable, all without partners burning the proverbial candle at both ends?

The answer is simple: we keep our costs low, we deploy our deep expertise straight away rather than expecting the client to pay for junior lawyers to acquire that expertise on the job, and we use technology in a smart way.  

The deep experience of the Euclid team, acquired from our work at global law firms and at a senior level within competition authorities, gives us the confidence to do this with confidence. All of our senior lawyers are ranked in the current Global Competition Review/Who’s Who Legal directory of leading competition lawyers and two are ranked as ‘thought leaders’ by that publication. Clients get direct access to this expertise, in a focused and efficient way. 

Once we are instructed, our clients become part of our team and also appreciate this approach. Although we are hyper-professional and always available, regardless of timing, we can structure our worktime and lives around our extended team’s needs and our humane approach is valued by all concerned.

Euclid’s flexible fee structure, bespoke case strategy and client-first approach is undeniably ‘counter-cultural’ in an industry that can be beset by entrenched working practices and business models. We’re comfortable being viewed as rebel upstarts, because we don’t view ourselves as a traditional law firm, but rather as entrepreneurs. And being an entrepreneur means constantly working to improve what we do, for clients, for staff and for society as a whole. In fact, both Oliver Bretz and Marie Leppard were nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020.

We are also alive to the social context in which we operate. Competition law helps to shape the societies we live in and what we do for our clients impacts markets and consumer welfare. Competition law also has the ability to support wider policies, such as environmental protection – a cause Euclid is dedicated to.

Competition law is an exciting space right now and in this respect, we are arguably fortunate to be living in such interesting times, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Euclid is uniquely placed to thrive in this environment, and this is one of the main reasons why I decided to join this exciting venture. We believe that our success in such a short time – against strong competition – is due largely to our innovative yet pragmatic approach, which continues to evolve as we do.

More on Euclid’s #5YearEvolution here: https://euclid-law.eu/5-year-anniversary-pragmatic

So… this is Brexit

UK competition law beyond the withdrawal – Part I & II

by Becket McGrath

Since the moment that the result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership in June 2016 was announced, there has been significant uncertainty over when the UK would leave the EU, whether the terms for departure could be agreed in time to avoid a “no deal” exit and even whether Brexit would happen at all. The first part focused on the competition law provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement. These provisions confirm the continued application of EU competition law in the UK during the Brexit transition period, which is currently due to end on 31 December 2020 These uncertainties were ultimately resolved sufficiently to enable Brexit to take place on 31 January 2020.

The second part goes beyond the Withdrawal Agreement which also provides for the continued jurisdiction in the UK of the European Commission and Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) after the end of the transition period for certain matters, including competition investigations that are ongoing at that point and related appeals. Finally, the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Agreement provides for indefinite Commission jurisdiction to supervise UK state aid measures with a potential to affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU. Assuming that the UK abides by its international law obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, these aspects of the relationship are now fixed. As a result, the only major area of uncertainty regarding the transition period is whether it will be extended.

To read the rest of this article which was published in Competition Law Insight, click for Part I and Part II.

Becket McGrath quoted in GCR article: “CMA proposes regulatory reform to combat big tech”

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has called for a new regime to regulate the online economy, after its digital advertising study found the market power of Google and Facebook is causing substantial harm to “society as a whole”.

The enforcer today asked the UK government to create a digital markets unit and empower it to break up big tech companies and enforce a code of conduct among online platforms to resolve competition concerns in that sector. It did not specify if the new unit should function within an existing body or be created as a new standalone regulator.

The EU enforcer launched a public consultation on its proposed market investigations tool in May. EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has cited the CMA’s similar power as an efficient way of tackling competition concerns in fast-moving markets.

Euclid Law partner Becket McGrath, who advised a publisher during the UK enforcer’s market study, said it is understandable why the CMA asked the government to introduce a new regulatory regime. Conduct that is not good for competition does not necessarily infringe antitrust law, but it could be addressed through careful, targeted regulation, he said.

Combating concerns related to the market power of big tech requires difficult public policy trade-offs that extend well beyond competition law, McGrath added. 

“With all these moving pieces, there has to come a point when the CMA, as an independent and unelected agency, hands over to the government,” he said.

McGrath also questioned if the UK could effectively implement some of the CMA’s proposals without aligning with reforms emerging elsewhere, particularly in the EU. “Solutions need to be closely coordinated – it’s not good for businesses if there is too much divergence,” he warned.

To read the full article on GCR website, click here.

Webinar: Foreign direct investment in Germany and the investor status of the UK

On 13 May, Oliver Bretz hosted our monthly live webinar #FDI on the European Foreign Direct Investment Screen #EUFIS, which affects most mergers and investments at this critical time. Oliver had the pleasure of chairing the Microsoft Teams debate alongside Dimitri Slobodenjuk who provided an interesting update on the changes to the German FDI control system.

The discussion also focused on the status of UK investors and UK Private Equity in the EU during the Transition Period.

Notes from the webinar can be found here.

Increasing interim measure use stirs consequences debate

Sarah Long commented to PaRR analytics on the increased use of interim measures, cautioning that despite the CMA’s recognition that the tool should be used more, the legal test remains relatively difficult to meet, and interim measures have never been successfully applied in the UK.  The CMA cites the Online Auction Platform case (which Euclid Law advised on) as an example of a successful interim measures case in its 2018/2018 annual report, although the case was closed after commitments were offered so there was no interim measures decision.  You can read Sarah’s article – co-authored with Simon Chisholm (CRA) and Helen Parker (UK Auctioneers Group) – here.

Webinar: DG Trade’s Carlo Pettinato on foreign direct investment controls

On 1st of April 2020, Oliver Bretz had the pleasure of chairing a live webinar alongside speakers Mr. Carlo Pettinato, Head of Investment Policy Unit – DG Trade, European Commission; Mr. Manuel Vélez Fraga, Partner – Uria; and Mr. Alan Riley, Senior Fellow – Atlantic Council.

The discussion focused on foreign direct investment (“FDI”) screening mechanisms and the approach of the European Commission (the “Commission”) during the COVID-19 crisis.

Notes from the webinar can be found here.

STUDY ON THE VERTICAL INTEGRATION OF PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY ORGANISATIONS AND THEIR EFFECT ON THE MARKET

Prepared for Expra by Oliver Bretz and Daniele Pinto – March 2020

This report aims at identifying in greater detail how the vertical integration of industry players from different levels of the packaging waste recovery cycle may have anti-competitive effects in the waste recovery market.

Commissioned and funded by EXPRA aisbl/ivzw, the alliance of 26 non-profit packaging and packaging waste recovery and recycling systems from 24 countries which are owned by package producers and importers.

The report was prepared by Euclid Law with complete independence, and its findings are based on the available evidence applied to legal and economic theory in the field of theories of harm to competition caused by vertical concentrations. It gives a general overview of the EU Extended Producer Responsibility policy and the market that it has created in Member States, applies legal and economic theory of competition to the context of vertically-integrated Producer Responsibility Organisations and also relies on concrete examples collected through a survey of waste recovery markets in the 24 countries where EXPRA’s members operate.

Finally, based on the available evidence, this report draws conclusions and makes recommendations to reduce the risk of harm to competition arising from vertical integration in EU waste recovery markets.

To read the full report, please follow the link.

Oliver Bretz will be speaking at the GCR Live Foreign Investment and Protectionism event

The inaugural GCR conference taking place on Thursday 2 April 2020 will discuss the rapidly evolving landscape of foreign investment review at a global level. Oliver will be involved in the session focusing on the practical impact of EU screening mechanism and “how practitioners can balance the tension between attracting global capital and protectionism in Europe?”

The debate will focus on key emerging themes as the speakers will no doubt shed light and help participants navigate the complex and transient area of law across jurisdictions.

The session will be chaired by John Davies, Brunswick and Jonas Koponen, Linklaters.

Click here for more information and to register.