Evelyn Niitväli is the founder of Niitväli Competition Law, a dedicated antitrust boutique firm. She advises clients on all aspects of German and European antitrust/competition law with a particular focus on merger control and cartel cases. Her experience spans various industries, including consumer goods, retail, automotive, energy and IT. Prior to founding her own firm, Evelyn was a partner at another boutique firm, headed the German antitrust practice of Weil and worked with Hengeler Mueller.
What has been the proudest achievement in your career to date?
Without a doubt, setting up my own antitrust boutique firm. It has been such an exciting venture and I am really grateful for all the confidence and support from clients and colleagues. I have a wonderful team and we strive every day to provide our clients with solutions that really help them to achieve their goals. It makes me incredibly proud that clients entrust our firm with their competition law issues.
On what matters have clients sought your advice during the ongoing covid-19 crisis?
One of the main topics that clients were thinking about was cooperations with competitors. Clients were consulting me to confirm if, and to what extent, they could cooperate with competitors in order to better secure their own supply chain or to ensure the efficient supply and distribution of their products. Other questions concerned abusive practices faced by clients, such as significant price increases or issues with their online distribution channel. Now the focus seems to be shifting. There are more questions regarding the feasibility of certain transactions from a competition law point of view. It may be that a company is in financial difficulties due to the crisis and a strategic investor is interested in getting involved. However, it can also be for more personal reasons, eg, the head of a family-owned business deciding to retire after having successfully steered his company through a couple of troubling months.
What are the most important changes that the amendment of Germany’s Competition Act will bring?
The 10th amendment of the German Act against Restraints of Competition (ARC) will bring about many significant changes. The reform will, inter alia, implement the ECN+ Directive, lower the threshold for interim measures and provide for a procedure to obtain a “comfort letter” from the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) for cooperations between competitors. Furthermore, there will be changes to the merger control regime, in particular an increase in the second domestic turnover threshold and an interesting new tool for the FCO. The FCO shall in future be able to oblige certain companies to notify any concentration within one or more specific economic sectors – provided that the acquirer had a global turnover of more than €250 million and the target of more than €2 million – if there are indications that future concentrations may restrict competition in Germany within the respective sector(s). This new competence for the authority may offer an additional tool to target so-called “killer acquisitions”.
However, the most important changes concern the control of abusive behaviour. In this regard, the 10th amendment – which is also called the “ARC Digitization Act” – will introduce a number of modifications aimed at more effective competition law enforcement in the digital sphere. Some examples: According to the draft bill, the analysis of market power shall also take into account a company’s access to data relevant for competition as well as the importance of intermediary services offered by a company for access to supply and sales markets. Access to data will be included as an essential facility. A new section will provide far-reaching powers of intervention vis-à-vis companies with “paramount significance for competition across markets”. In particular, the authority will be able to prohibit such companies from self-preferencing, leveraging market power and impeding interoperability of products or data portability.
I am sure that the FCO is very eager to make use of its new tools and competences once the ARC Digitization Act enters into force. Thus, watch this space. There will be interesting times ahead.
What challenges did you face when setting up your own boutique firm, Niitväli Competition Law?
Setting up my own firm amid the high tide of the covid-19 pandemic was quite a feat. It made a lot of the logistics involved with getting things up and running really difficult and required a lot of hard work and flexibility from the team and myself. We continued to support our clients through the difficult times while literally sitting on and among packed boxes. However, the first couple of months have been a huge success. I can now safely say that any difficulties we might have faced, were absolutely worth it.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in competition law?
First and foremost: Be curious and do not be afraid to ask questions. Practising competition law does not only require you to “know the law”. Rather, you need to have a thorough understanding of your clients’ products and what drives their business. You will only be able to gain this insight if you ask questions and listen to the responses. Second: Build a network. Look for a mentor who is willing to share her experience with you. Find colleagues with whom you can discuss hot topics. Last but not least: Do not forget that there is a life outside the office as well!
Evelyn Niitväli is a sterling competition lawyer who "always works relentlessly and intelligently for her clients and their goals".
Peers and clients say: "Evelyn is a true competition expert with excellent legal analysis and vast experience."
"She is really dedicated and always pays attention to detail, while still seeing the big picture."
"Ms Niitväli is a real pleasure to work with."
"She is an excellent lawyer."
"Evelyn is an all-round competition lawyer with particular expertise in cartel and merger control proceedings, as well as civil antitrust litigation."
Evelyn Niitväli is the founder of Niitväli Competition Law, a dedicated antitrust law boutique in Frankfurt. 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, coordinating multi-jurisdictional filings, and representing third parties in their intervention against proposed transactions.
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 IT and telecommunications, technology, life science, consumer goods, retail, automotive as well as energy and utilities.
Evelyn started her career at Hengeler Mueller in Düsseldorf and Brussels. Prior to founding her own antitrust boutique firm, Evelyn was a co-founding partner of RCAA 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 and JUVE.