The competition practice at Bell Gully is ‘one of the handful of pure competition law teams in the country which means they have the best gauge of the regulator’s pulse‘ and are engaged in a large number of multi-jurisdictional mergers raising New Zealand issues. This in addition to various cartel matters and restrictive trade practices investigations. The practice assists clients with broader regulatory and compliance issues, such as the latest amendments to make cartel conduct a criminal offence, and potential changes to the law around the misuse of market power. Practice head Torrin Crowther led a team which included senior associate Penny Pasley, in advising Elanco Animal Health Incorporated on its agreement with Bayer AG to acquire its animal health business in a transaction worth US$6.9 bn. Glenn Shewan advises major blue-chip clients such as Mylan and BP on regulatory and legislative policies, cartel investigations, misuse of market power issues and major M&A transactions. Jenny Stevens is a top defence counsel for cartel proceedings and Commerce Commission investigations. All individuals are based in Auckland. Simon Ladd departed in December 2021.
Competition law in New Zealand
‘One of the handful of pure competition law teams in the country which means they have the best gauge of the regulator’s pulse.’
‘Torrin Crowther is the best competition lawyer in the country both technically but more importantly in terms of pragmatism and providing easily understood advice at all levels of a client’s organisation.’
‘Torrin has a unique ability to assess the particular pressures that face our business. His in-depth understanding of both the economic realities of our business and operations and how these might be considered in any particular assessment made by the Commerce Commission is invaluable.’
Air New Zealand
Mylan / Viatris
- Advised Mylan on its successful merger with Upjohn to form Viatris.
- Advised McGraw-Hill on the proposed merger with Cengage. McGraw-Hill and Cengage are both global publishers of educational products, such as textbooks and other learning materials used in educational institutions.
- Advised Nippon Paper (including in relation to the competition aspects) on its acquisition of the Fibre business of Orora Fibre in Australia and NZ for AU$1.7bn, which was a complex transaction structure to carve the Fibre business out from Orora’s retained beverage business.
Chapman Tripp continues to advise clients across a diverse range of sectors including energy, financial services, infrastructure and telecommunications. Its work ranges from merger approvals, abuse of market power, and cartel activity to resale price maintenance and compliance audits.
‘Highly regarded‘ MinterEllisonRuddWatts stands out for its breadth of capabilities in competition law, advising on merger clearance applications and oppositions, often with a trans-Tasman element, and behavioural enforcement matters. Renowned market figure in Auckland, Ross Patterson spearheads the practice with over 30 years’ expertise acting in the highest profile merger clearances, authorisations and Commerce Commission investigations. Jennifer Hambleton is the other key name in the same office; she focuses on contentious and regulatory matters. In Wellington, Sarah Salmond undertakes regulatory work across the retail, consumer goods, telecoms and energy sectors. Oliver Meech departed to the Commerce Commission in 2021.
‘Highly regarded firm who attract the best.’
‘Very personable team who are experts in their fields but still have the ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner.’
Television New Zealand
Assa Abloy New Zealand Limited
- Advising Refining NZ on competition law aspects of its ongoing negotiations with its refinery customers in relation to a possible transition of its refinery from a toll refinery operation to an import terminal operation.
- Advising Viagogo AG in relation to the New Zealand Commerce Commission’s proceedings against viagogo under the Fair Trading Act.
- Acting for Assa Abloy in relation to its application for New Zealand Commerce Commission clearance of its proposed acquisition of New Zealand Fire Doors Limited.
Buddle Findlay's ‘extremely commercial and well-connected‘ team is made up of Wellington partners Tony Dellow and Susie Kilty. The practice has built up a strong offering in merger and joint venture clearance, anti-competitive practice and law reforms, most recently, advising the Electricity Authority on urgent amendments to the Electricity Industry Participation Code to address competition concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Stand out‘ Dellow has extensive transactional and contentious competition law expertise, and is active on merger and cartel investigations. Kilty acts in cartel and fair trading investigations, and also advises on regulatory compliance, often for inbound investors on proposed acquisitions in New Zealand. In Auckland, senior associate Anna Parker is also considered ‘a standout'.
Other key lawyers:
‘The Competition Law team at Buddle Findlay has an excellent mix of competition law and public policy expertise. They know our business and what we require to advise Ministers and Parliamentary processes. Their strengths are that they become part of the team and provide practical advice that is solution-orientated. They are customer-focused and provide value for money.’
‘Extremely commercial, direct and useable advice, very well-connected.’
‘Tony Dellow is a stand-out, as is Anna Parker. Tony is unflappable, proactive and provides extremely clear advice. Anna has the same qualities.’
‘Tony Dellow leads the competition law team, and has extensive public and private practice experience, and competition law and public policy expertise. He is able to develop bespoke solutions to complex problems. He also has a great sense of humour and is fun to work with.’
‘Anna Parker has sound expertise in competition law and public policy. She is very diligent and capable. They make a great team.’
Electricity Authority (and its predecessor the Electricity Commission before 2010)
Infratil / Morrison & Co
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
Ministry for Primary Industries
Payments New Zealand
Tertiary Education Commission
Toyota New Zealand
Verifone/EFTPOS New Zealand
- Advising Payments NZ on its API Centre partnering project, including providing Commerce Act training.
- Advising CRV Limited on a regulatory review of the dairy herd improvement sector by the Ministry for Primary Industries, which is considering policy issues and potential regulatory change to address competition concerns.
- Advising Verifone on matters relating to its successful application for Commerce Commission clearance to acquire Smartpay.
Operating as part of a global competition practice, DLA Piper New Zealand‘s practice is led by Alicia Murray, who specialises in merger clearance, regulatory advisory and litigation support for the firms’ major clients across various sectors. As a seasoned litigator, she regularly represents clients before the Commerce Commission in relation to alleged breaches of competition law and consumer law, and is also active on several cartel-related cases. Specialising in non-contentious issues, Mark Williamson is instructed on regulatory compliance and general competition law matters. He is continuing to participate in the Commerce Commission’s enquiry into retail fuel.
Other key lawyers:
‘Mark Williamson is an excellent and highly regarded NZ Competition lawyer and is assisting us on the Commerce Commission’s study of the NZ Grocery market. Mark has a good understanding of the NZ market, his client and very strong technical legal knowledge.’
Foodstuffs North Island Limited
Discovery Inc Yes (in New Zealand)
- Acted for Discovery (UK) in acquisition of Media Works (NZ) (the leading independent free to air commercial broadcaster in New Zealand). Advised on all aspects of the transaction, including an assessment of competition law risks and notification to the Commerce Commission of the acquisition
- Acting for Foodstuffs North Island Limited in respect of the New Zealand Commerce Commission’s market study into the New Zealand grocery industry.
- Representing Foodstuffs North Island in an arbitration claim where the key issue is whether a restrictive covenant provision in the lease and on the land title is unenforceable because it is anti-competitive. The restrictive covenant currently prohibits the establishment of a competing supermarket on a neighbouring site.
As New Zealand’s only specialist competition boutique, Matthews Law ‘simply know all the ins and outs of competition law’ and is highly acclaimed for its ‘practical results focused approach‘ backed up by extensive experience in cross-jurisdictional mandates, particularly in the areas of merger control, cartels and investigations, regulatory compliance, consumer law and TMT-related issues. It’s key partner, Andy Matthews is ‘absolutely a standout in the New Zealand space’, and is supported by special counsel Gus Stewart, ‘a steady hand in the competition space.’
Other key lawyers:
‘Legitimate competition law expertise back up by plenty of experience and a practical results focused approach.’
‘They simply know all the ins and outs of competition law.’
‘The team has a depth of competition law experience as they are specialists in the practice area. As a boutique firm they are unique in their endeavour in what is a small market; they need to have the expertise and commercial nous to compete with the top tier NZ firms, and they do.’
‘Andy Matthews is clever, responsive, pragmatic and very very easy to deal with, even on short notice and at his personal inconvenience. He is absolutely a standout in the New Zealand space which has a limited number of exceptional individuals in it. As a previous top tier law firm partner he has an appreciation of what matters to clients, and the ability to deal with it all.’
‘Gus Stewart is a steady hand in the competition space with an ability to get across detail and deliver outcomes. As a competition specialist at a level below partner he is first class.’
‘Andy Matthews is at the top of the competition field. Strategic, proactive and solves problems before the client knows they could exist.’
Russell McVeagh‘s competition practice is made up of specialists in commercial advisory, investigations and disputes with the Commerce Commission, merger filings and law reform to provide ‘clear, quick, pragmatic and good value‘ counsel on the full scope of competition and regulatory law. Troy Pilkington‘s ‘deep understanding of the market dynamics and strong commercial acumen make him invaluable as an advisor.’ He has developed a strong reputation across all areas of competition and commercial law, particularly in merger clearances, consumer law investigations and cartel cases, and is often sought after by clients operating in the banking, electronic trading platforms and consumer goods sectors. Senior associate Bradley Aburn is also recommended for competitor collaborations, merger control approvals, and competition investigations. Sarah Keene left to join the New Zealand Bar.
Other key lawyers:
‘We found the competition team at Russell McVeagh to show excellent local legal knowledge while providing practical and pragmatic advice. They have a solution oriented approach and are very responsive.’
‘Russell McVeagh has a well respected and very capable competition law team with what appears to be a strong client base helped by the strength of its M&A team/offering. The team are easy to deal with and have a great knowledge and understanding of our business and our industry which means their advice is rich and on point.’
‘The Russell McVeagh competition law team is best in class. Their advice is always clear, quick, pragmatic and good value. Troy and the team are happy to go above and beyond to help their clients and to take a position in what can often be a murky area of law. Most importantly though, they have a deep understanding of the state of the law in NZ and the regulator behaviour which allows them to give deeper strategic advice than your run of the mill competition lawyer.’
‘Troy Pilkington (Partner) is extremely service-orientated and his advice is always clear and accessible and practical.’
‘Our experience with Bradley Aburn has been fantastic, and he gets full marks in every important category: (i) legal knowledge; (ii) practical and pragmatic advice; (iii) solution-oriented approach; and (iv) responsiveness. He has provided a steady hand on what has been a very unsteady and challenging project.’
‘Troy Pilkington is hands down the best competition lawyer I have ever worked with. His deep understanding of the market dynamics and strong commercial acumen make him invaluable as an advisor.’
Turners & Growers Global Limited
Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Limited
Cengage Learning Holdings II, Inc.
Datix and RL Solutions
Smartpay Holdings Limited
Woolworths New Zealand Limited
Willis Towers Watson plc
The Data Economy Collective
Meridian Energy Limited
Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd
- External competition law advisers to one of New Zealand’s leading supermarket retailers, Woolworths New Zealand Limited, in relation to the NZCC’s high profile 2020/21 market study into New Zealand’s grocery industry.
- Acting for both the purchaser and the vendor in relation to the New Zealand antitrust aspects of Datix’s acquisition of RL Solutions. Datix and RL Solutions are global suppliers of patient safety and risk management software (PSRMS).
- Advising Willis Towers Watson on its New Zealand clearance application in relation to the global acquisition by Aon. The acquisition involves combining two of the four major parties in this industry across New Zealand and global markets.
Simpson Grierson‘s team ‘provide commercially focused advice, and are not afraid to give frank opinions‘. Working in tandem with the corporate team and specialist litigators, its main partners Anne Callinan and James Craig are ‘knowledgeable and accessible‘, and are highly regarded for their individuals specialisations, cartel litigation and M&A and restrictive trade practices, respectively. Key areas of work include Commerce Commission clearances and authorisations for acquisitions, assisting in compliance with competition law and other regulatory issues, and advising on both investigations and court proceedings. Nina Blomfield made partner in July 2021 and is also recommended for merger clearance. All figures are based in Auckland.
Other key lawyers:
‘Ability to bring expert legal knowledge (of a technically complex area) and apply it pragmatically to business fact situation. They provide commercially focussed advice, and are not afraid to give frank opinion.’
‘Accessible and friendly. They speak at our level and we don’t feel lorded over. They are knowledgeable and provide us the advice in the format that we request making our lives easier if presenting to the board.’
‘Ann Callinan leads a small but knowledgeable and accessible competition law team. They understand our sector and the problems we face.’
‘James Craig – extremely accessible; prompt advice; happy to talk over initial view on the telephone; takes the time to understand business and goals.’
Livestock Improvement Corporation
OMV New Zealand limited
The a2 Milk Corporation
DB Breweries Limited
BP Oil New Zealand Limited
Drymix N.Z. Limited
- Acted for Bayer in successfully obtaining clearance from the Commerce Commission in 2020 in relation to the New Zealand competition issues associated with the global sale of Bayer’s animal health business to Elanco.
- Advised Harmoney in a case study in the problems that arise in applying existing laws to new, disruptive technologies and was a significant test case in respect of the scope of NZ’s consumer credit laws. The central issue was how new financial legislation, which enabled peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms to begin operating in NZ, intersects with existing consumer credit legislation (CCCFA), which does not contemplate P2P lending.
- Acting for Drymix N.Z. Limited in relation to the clearance application from Concrete Group Limited (Cemix) to acquire the assets and business of Drymix.
In Auckland, Ian Denton‘s team at Wilson Harle, ‘has a high level of competition expertise and experience’. The specialist litigation firm has a strong trans-Tasman spread, receiving referrals from Australian and other international law firms on matters concerning New Zealand competition issues. The practice largely acts in anti-competitive conduct litigation, fair trading prosecutions and a number of important cartel and consumer law investigations and proceedings, on behalf of corporates in the financial services, healthcare, local authorities, shipping and transportation and telecoms sectors. Allison Ferguson and Felicity Monteiro are also a central figures.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team, led by Ian Denton, has a high level of competition expertise and experience. They are responsive, easy to deal with and build a great rapport with clients.’
‘Ian Denton is knowledgeable, hard working and a good team player. As well as a good technical grasp of the issues, Ian is very commercial and has good judgment.’
Wilson Parking New Zealand
Vodafone New Zealand
- Acted for Wilson Parking in the Commission’s proceeding under s 47 regarding the acquisition of a carpark building lease in Wellington. The Commission alleged that the transaction substantially lessened competition in a market.
- Acted for Vodafone in relation to breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1986 for which they have faced 27 representative charges, 9 of which are alternate charges. The prosecution relates to the marketing of services provided over Vodafone’s Hybrid Fibre Coaxial cable network as “FibreX” and representations on its website about the availability of fibre services to certain areas.