Benoît Merkt
Office:
Route de Chêne 30
CH-1211
City:
Geneva 6
State:
Geneva
Country:
Switzerland
Tel:
+41 58 450 70 00
Fax:
+41 58 450 70 01

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Competition: Lawyers

Dr Benoît Merkt is a leading expert in competition law. Based in Geneva, he is co-head of the firm’s competition law practice. Benoît has broad experience in advising clients in Swiss Competition Commission investigations and merger control procedures. He has acted in high-profile cases in the fields of horizontal and vertical agreements, merger control and abuse of dominant position. His first-rate practice includes representing clients in private competition law enforcement and in public procurement law matters in Switzerland.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A LEGAL CAREER?

Without surprise, a main motivation lies in my natural interest and curiosity to understand legal frameworks, together with a desire to help people find practical solutions to issues they face, no matter how big or small. Working in Lenz & Staehelin is also a source of motivation, as we often work in teams (sometimes across practice groups) in which like-minded and driven lawyers benefit from the experience and perspective of older and younger colleagues, which ultimately results in a comprehensive and thoughtful service for our clients. Last, but not least, motivation seems to come naturally when your own values are in line with those of the firm in which you work: in my case, integrity, independence, quality and vision.

HOW HAS COMPETITION LAW EVOLVED IN SWITZERLAND SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR PRACTICE?

The main milestone was in 2004 when the Swiss Competition Commission (ComCo) was vested with modern enforcement powers (ie, the possibility to issue direct sanctions and conduct dawn raids) and when a leniency regime was introduced in Switzerland. The Swiss-EU Cooperation Agreement in Competition Law, which entered into force at the end of 2014, is another significant milestone as it allows the exchange of confidential information between the EU Commission and the ComCo. More recently, the Swiss Supreme Court’s judgment issued in 2016 in the Gaba matter marks the latest important milestone concerning the substantive assessment of horizontal and vertical agreements. The case-law introduction of a per se prohibition of agreements falling in the presumption of article 5(3) and (4) of the Swiss Competition Act already has had, and will continue to have, far reaching implications in Swiss competition law enforcement in the years to come.

YOU STARTED OUT YOUR CAREER AT THE SWISS COMPETITION COMMISSION – HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE THERE ENHANCED YOUR CURRENT PRACTICE?

The two years I spent at the Swiss Competition Commission from 1997 to 1999 was an extremely useful experience. During these years, I established precious relationships with colleagues who now have leading positions in the ComCo and the ComCo Secretariat.  Furthermore, it gave me a unique insight into the functioning of the ComCo as well as the internal dynamics between the ComCo and the Secretariat.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BUILDING UP THE FIRM’S COMPETITION LAW PRACTICE IN GENEVA?

When I became a partner in 2006, I was able to count on the support of my other partners as well as Lenz & Staehelin’s client base to develop the Geneva practice rapidly. That said, conflict of interest issues has been the most challenging aspect given the positioning of our firm, the number of our clients and the limited size of the Swiss market.

AS HEAD OF COMPETITION AT LENZ & STAEHELIN, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES AT THE MOMENT REGARDING ITS DEVELOPMENT?

With my Zurich partners, Marcel Meinhardt and Astrid Waser, we want to continue to be present in all main competition law investigations in Switzerland and remain leaders, while at the same time maintaining a strong team spirit between offices. We also strongly believe in the continuous education and development of younger members of our team.

HOW DOES THE FIRM’S COMPETITION OFFERING STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS IN THE MARKET?

Lenz & Staehelin is the sole Swiss firm with a leading competition law practice in Zurich and Geneva, and thus has the ability to serve clients in the German and French speaking parts of the country equally. This, together with the fact that we have the largest competition law team in the country and the sole female competition law partner in Switzerland, makes our competition law practice unique in terms of balance, expertise and national footprint.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE MOVES TO BRING SWISS COMPETITION LAW IN LINE WITH THAT OF THE REST OF EUROPE BOLSTERED OR WEAKENED THE NATIONAL REGULATORY FRAMEWORK?

Indeed, as noted above, EU competition law continues to fundamentally shape Swiss competition law and enforcement. We see also more and more international leniency cases and cartel cases prosecuted in parallel in Europe and in Switzerland. And it need not be said that the EU and Swiss merger control regimes work closely together.

SOURCES HAVE NOTED AN UPTICK IN COMPETITION LITIGATION WORK – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DRIVING THIS TREND?

It is true that there is an uptick in competition litigation work but I must say that we are still behind other countries like Germany. A first successful damage claim for competition law infringement would likely open the way to more competition litigation work.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Switzerland - Competition

Dr Benoît Merkt is a leading expert in competition law and is renowned for his first-rate practice. He specialises in all areas of Swiss and European merger control work and competition law, notably in the banking and finance, energy, high-tech, infrastructures (electricity), consumer goods, chemical, luxury goods, motor-car distribution, public broadcasting and retail sectors. He has been responsible for a large number of merger notifications to the Swiss Competition Commission and coordinated multi-jurisdictional merger filings. Benoît Merkt advises in contentious and non-contentious matters and has acted in high profile cases on alleged abuses of dominant positions, vertical restraints, cartels and public procurement.

Benoît Merkt is also one of the leading Swiss law practitioners in the field of tax-exempt/non-profit organisations. He heads the firm's practice in this field. He has incorporated major foundations and associations of international scope and regularly advises clients with respect to the structuring and implementation of charitable projects in Switzerland and abroad. He is a member of the legal council of SwissFoundations, as well as member of the board of directors of several public utility foundations of international scope.

Benoît Merkt holds a law degree from the University of Neuchâtel (1992; doctorate in law 2001) and a MJur from the University of Oxford (1996, Berrow scholarship). Benoît Merkt was a research assistant in international economic law at the University of Berne (1997) and a lecturer in European and Swiss competition law at the University of Geneva (1998). He joined Lenz & Staehelin in 1999 and has been a partner since 2006. He speaks French, English and German.

Benoît Merkt is a member of the Swiss Association of Competition Law (ASAS), the International League of Competition Law (LIDC), the Swiss Bar Association, the competition committee of SAV/FSA, the International Bar Association (IBA) and the International Union of Lawyers (UIA).

Lenz & Staehelin is the largest Swiss law firm with over 200 lawyers and with offices in Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne. Lenz & Staehelin's scope of activities covers all areas of business law for Swiss and international clients.

WWL says: The superb Benoît Merkt is noted by sources for his expertise in competition law and his particular skill in complex cross-border cases.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Switzerland which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Competition: Lawyers

Dr Benoît Merkt is a leading expert in competition law and is renowned for his first-rate practice. He specialises in all areas of Swiss and European merger control work and competition law, notably in the banking and finance, energy, high-tech, infrastructures (electricity), consumer goods, chemical, luxury goods, motor-car distribution, public broadcasting and retail sectors. He has been responsible for a large number of merger notifications to the Swiss Competition Commission and coordinated multi-jurisdictional merger filings. Benoît Merkt advises in contentious and non-contentious matters and has acted in high profile cases on alleged abuses of dominant positions, vertical restraints, cartels and public procurement.

Benoît Merkt is also one of the leading Swiss law practitioners in the field of tax-exempt/non-profit organisations. He heads the firm's practice in this field. He has incorporated major foundations and associations of international scope and regularly advises clients with respect to the structuring and implementation of charitable projects in Switzerland and abroad. He is a member of the legal council of SwissFoundations, as well as member of the board of directors of several public utility foundations of international scope.

Benoît Merkt holds a law degree from the University of Neuchâtel (1992; doctorate in law 2001) and a MJur from the University of Oxford (1996, Berrow scholarship). Benoît Merkt was a research assistant in international economic law at the University of Berne (1997) and a lecturer in European and Swiss competition law at the University of Geneva (1998). He joined Lenz & Staehelin in 1999 and has been a partner since 2006. He speaks French, English and German.

Benoît Merkt is a member of the Swiss Association of Competition Law (ASAS), the International League of Competition Law (LIDC), the Swiss Bar Association, the competition committee of SAV/FSA, the International Bar Association (IBA) and the International Union of Lawyers (UIA).

Lenz & Staehelin is the largest Swiss law firm with over 200 lawyers and with offices in Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne. Lenz & Staehelin's scope of activities covers all areas of business law for Swiss and international clients.

WWL says: Benoît Merkt is an excellent practitioner who is recognised for his first-class competition practice spanning such industries as chemicals, banking and energy.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Competition which can be purchased from our Shop.

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