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Japan: Competition 2016

Since 2013, when Kazuyuki Sugimoto took office as chairman of the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), there has been a considerable focus on procedural change, culminating in the Antitrust Reform Act which took effect on 1 April 2015. Under this reform, JFTC orders are subject to review by judicial courts under the applicable administrative procedures laws, and a defendant company may file a complaint directly with the Tokyo District Court to quash such JFTC orders. The next areas of focus are reported to be fining guidelines for cartels and increasing the rights of defence in Japan. In this dynamic sector we recognise 32 lawyers specialised in merger control, cartel regulation and questions of dominance and market power.  

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune leads the research in this chapter with a contingent of five lawyers recommended and it is regularly referred to as “the best antitrust team in Japan”. Vassili Moussis* is “internationally renowned” for his competition practice. He advises on EU and international competition law assisting clients in merger control and cartel matters. His advice is “always well prepared and delivered in a timely fashion”. The “stellar” Yusuke Nakano assists Japanese clients in antitrust matters at home and abroad and is described as a “great team player” who “seamlessly works with co-counsel across jurisdictions”. Hideto Ishida’s experience includes being the first attorney appointed as a special investigator with the JFTC, and clients appreciate his “great insight into the practical application of competition law” and his “thorough approach” to investigations. Shigeyoshi Ezaki is a “great all-rounder” who combines “strong expertise in competition law” with a general corporate practice. He is considered “highly commercial” and “able to see the bigger picture without losing sight of the finer detail”. Etsuko Hara is “a true talent” and “a top expert on leniency applications”.

Four names are recommended at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto. Kenji Ito is a “pioneering lawyer” in the competition market whose “deep skillset” is much lauded. Harumichi Uchida is “a Japanese competition law guru”, while Tsuyoshi Ikeda is a “seasoned veteran” in the field whose “prominent practice” is greatly respected by clients and peers alike. The “dynamic” and “driven” Hideki Utsunomiya is popular with clients.

Nishimura & Asahi is represented by three lawyers in this chapter, who are all active in a number of noteworthy merger control and cartel investigations. Kojiro Fujii is an “accomplished lawyer” with an “international mindset”, while Kozo Kawai is considered “first class” and a “great asset to any team”. Ryutaro Nakayama provides “comprehensive advice” and has a “hands-on approach” that wins praise from clients and peers.

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu also top ranks with a busy team led by a trio of leaders. Co-head Eriko Watanabe is many clients’ “first choice” for counsel on competition law matters. She is a “leading authority” on matters such as cartel enforcement and merger control. Fellow co-head Mitsuo Matsushita is known by all as a “celebrated scholar”; he acts as an adviser to the firm on antitrust investigations and merger control matters. Kaoru Hattori is a “sensational adviser” who “truly listens to her clients and provides solutions-oriented advice”.

Based in Osaka, Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners is known for advising clients the industrial region of the country, although it also has a presence in Tokyo. Co-head Tetsuya Nagasawa has an acclaimed practice. His “quick thinking” and “pragmatic approach” are highly valued by clients. Fellow co-head Tadashi Ishikawa is a “top-notch” dispute resolution practitioner with an active competition law practice. Koya Uemura represents clients before the JFTC in merger control and cartel investigations and is “highly effective”.

Hibiya Sogo Law Office is a strong antitrust boutique which challenges the full-service firms for the best share of the market; three names feature prominently in our research. Toshiaki Tada is a “leading authority” on competition law in the jurisdiction and he receives praise for his “forensic approach” and “excellent style of delivery”. The “meticulous” Ryuta Kawai “always impresses”, while Tsutomu Nakato is mentioned for his “business-oriented approach” and “ability to tailor his advice to address clients’ needs”.

At another top boutique Atsumi & Sakai two names stand out, particularly on the behavioural side of the market. The “esteemed” practice head Setsuko Yufu earns praise for her “personable manner and winning style with clients” and for her international outlook. Alongside her, Tatsuo Yamashima is “a strong performer who provides energy and hard work throughout proceedings”.

At Morrison & Foerster, practice head Kei Amemiya is recommended for his experience in litigation matters and for his “expert handling” of cartel, monopolization, unfair trade practices, as well as high-profile merger reviews. According to respondents he has “fantastic knowledge, which he can apply practically and responsively”. Alongside him, Kentaro Hirayama is regarded as “a prominent young lawyer” who is “a superb handler” of matters for a range of international clients.

Jones Day also sees two of its lawyers recommended in this chapter with a focus on antitrust investigations. Hiromitsu Miyakawa is a “superb litigator” who has served as defence counsel in major cartel prosecutions brought by the JFTC. Shinya Watanabe is a “seasoned expert” in competition law and he heads the antitrust practice in the Tokyo office. He is a “great strategist” and “highly effective operator”.

Akira Inoue at Baker & McKenzie’s Tokyo office focuses on cross-border matters representing clients such as investment banks, autoparts, computers, medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers and construction companies. He has an “impressive track record” and “good reputation in the market for getting things done”.

Kimitoshi Yabuki runs the highly regarded boutique outfit Yabuki Law Offices. He is considered “one of the leading lights in the Japanese competition legal market”. He is praised for his “forward thinking, solutions-oriented advice” and his “compelling arguments”.

At Momo-o Matsuo & Namba, Nobuaki Mukai is noted for his defence work on behalf of corporations and individuals in relation to antitrust violations. He is also recommended for his experience in merger control matters due to his “finely tuned skills”.

At his own offices Shiro Shida is noted for his strong practice on the behavioural side of the market.

Koga & Partners’ Seiichi Yoshikawa provides “sensible advice” that is “well prepared” and takes into consideration international best practice and local nuances.


* Foreign-qualified lawyer

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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