Evelyn Niitväli advises clients on all aspects of German and European antitrust/competition law, with a particular focus on merger control as well as cartel cases. Her experience spans various industries, including consumer goods, retail, automotive, energy and utilities, IT, and telecommunications. Evelyn started her career at Hengeler Mueller. Prior to founding RCAA, Evelyn was a partner at a Munich-based antitrust boutique firm and headed the German antitrust practice of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
What motivated you to specialise in competition law?
I got my first taste of competition law when I was doing an Erasmus exchange in Leuven. The university offered a course in EU competition law taught by Jacques Steenbergen. I was absolutely fascinated by the subject – in particular the combination of law and economics – as well as the war stories about dawn raids. I went on to spend part of my legal clerkship at Hengeler Mueller in Düsseldorf and got completely hooked.
I love the fact that practising competition law not only allows but actually requires you to gain a thorough understanding of your clients’ products and what drives their business, and I enjoy the international nature of the practice.
How has the market changed since you started practising?
There have been quite a few changes in the market since I started practising 15 years ago. Competition law has been a growing practice area for years now. The active enforcement by a steadily growing number of competition authorities worldwide has increased the awareness of companies as regards competition law and the importance of competition law compliance. Consequently, there has been a significant growth of the competition law bar. There is also more “variety” in terms of the firms offering competition law advice, ie, competition law is no longer a niche practice in larger firms. Rather, there are now also a number of specialised boutique firms.
What makes Reysen Competition Advice & Advocacy stand out from its competitors?
Law is a people business. While it is crucial to have in-depth knowledge of the law, such knowledge alone is not enough. It is equally important to understand your clients’ business, legal needs and concerns. I strive to provide clients with solutions that really help them to achieve their goals, and present them in a manner that they can understand and work with. It is important to me to build up a legal partnership with the client and invest in the relationship. Last, but not least, I keep it fun.
How is technology and the digital sphere impacting the practice area at the moment?
Technology and the digital sphere have an impact on two aspects of the practice.
Firstly, legal technology plays an important role in the daily work of competition lawyers – only think of e-discovery and e-search tools – and the importance of such technology will increase in the future.
Secondly, the digital sphere will have a huge impact on the type of cases and substantive issues we will be dealing with in the future. There is an ongoing debate about a number of topics, such as big data, algorithms, platforms and multi-sided markets, and whether the current regime is well suited to deal with the challenges brought about by the “digital revolution”.
How do you predict the landmark case between Facebook and the German FCO will affect competition legal practice in the next couple of years?
The Facebook case raises a number of interesting questions. The most hotly debated issue is whether an infringement of data protection law by a dominant undertaking should be considered as an abuse of dominance.
The decision of the FCO and the subsequent decision of the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf in the interim proceedings are both important contributions to the ongoing discussion of competition law issues arising from the possession and use of data. The fact that the FCO and the Higher Regional Court took different positions as regards a number of important aspects of the case illustrates the difficulties that competition authorities may face when trying to address concerns in the digital sphere within the existing legal framework. Taking into consideration that it may take years until a final court decision in the case is reached, the legislator may feel called upon to step in and change the law towards more regulatory intervention.
Practitioners have noted an increase in private antitrust enforcement. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this trend?
Changes to the legislative framework have made it much easier for claimants to file damages actions – particularly in follow-on cases. However, I believe that the increase in private antitrust enforcement is not only due to legislative changes; rather, companies now are much more aware of their rights and are willing to go to court to pursue them. It is no longer frowned upon to file damages actions. On the contrary, it is expected that companies try to recoup damages. Moreover, the success of claimants in court cases as well as in out-of-court settlements motivates other companies to also take the leap and go to court.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
It is hard to nail down the single best piece of career advice as there are a number of lessons I have learned throughout my career. If I have to pick just one: be open to step outside your comfort zone. If this is difficult for you and you are afraid of taking risks, it helps to ask yourself: “What is the worst that can happen?”
Evelyn Niitväli is “a true competition expert with excellent legal analysis and vast experience”, who “always pays attention to detail while still seeing the big picture”.
Evelyn Niitväli is one of the co-founding partners of RCAA, a dedicated antitrust boutique firm with offices in Frankfurt and Brussels. She has extensive experience advising clients on all aspects of German and European antitrust law.
Evelyn has handled various complex merger control proceedings both with the German Federal Cartel Office and the European Commission. Her merger control experience includes requests for referral to the European Commission, negotiating commitments as well as coordinating multi-jurisdictional filings.
Another focus of Evelyn’s practice is in cartel proceedings and abuse of dominance cases with the German Federal Cartel Office and the European Commission. She assists clients in dawn raids and internal investigations, leniency proceedings, and negotiating settlements with the competition authorities.
Evelyn regularly represents clients in private antitrust litigation cases and out-of-court settlement negotiations. She also advises clients regarding antitrust issues in connection with commercial agreements, including complex distribution structures, research and development cooperations, licence agreements and joint production agreements.
Her experience spans various industries, including consumer goods, retail, automotive, energy and utilities, IT and telecommunications.
Evelyn started her legal career at Hengeler Mueller in Düsseldorf and Brussels. Prior to founding RCAA, Evelyn was a partner in a Munich-based antitrust boutique firm and headed the German antitrust practice of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in Frankfurt.
Evelyn is recognised in various directories, including Chambers Europe, The Legal 500 Germany and JUVE.