Johan Carle joined Mannheimer Swartling in 1993 and was elected partner in 1999. He was Mannheimer Swartling’s resident partner in Brussels for almost a decade, returning to Stockholm in 2003 where he now heads the EU and competition law group. Johan has substantial experience of issues relating to merger control, cartels, abuse of a dominant position, state aid and public procurement. He is consistently ranked as a leading individual in the most recognised legal directories.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORK IN THE FIELD COMPETITION LAW?
As a specialist within a full-service firm, I enjoy working with colleagues in other disciplines and fitting together the puzzle pieces of our respective areas of expertise into a complete picture for our clients. I also relish the deep dive into a client’s business that is required as a competition lawyer – if we don’t know what they do, we can’t very well help them manage the risk to do it.
HOW DOES WORKING ON BOTH TRANSACTIONAL AND CONTENTIOUS MATTERS BENEFIT YOUR WORK IN BOTH AREAS?
On a personal level, a mixed practice simply keeps things more interesting. On a practical level, there is also greater scope to avoid litigation or an investigation if you have handled matters that have not always followed such a smooth course.
TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE CULTURAL NORMS AROUND LITIGATION IN THE NORDIC MARKET BEGUN TO CHANGE?
Compared to the US, the UK or even other parts of the EU, Sweden has traditionally been a far less litigious jurisdiction. I would say that there is still a “Nordic way” – where agreements tend to be shorter and “what ifs” are less laboriously catered for – but I do now see this being somewhat tempered by outside influences. More often than not we are involved in multi-jurisdictional matters and what works domestically may not be appropriate in that context. Nordic pragmatism can still be brought to bear, however!
M&A HAS REACHED RECORD HIGHS IN RECENT MONTHS. HOW DOES THE FIRM ENSURE IT IS WELL PLACED TO ASSIST ON RELATED COMPETITION MATTERS?
Skill, size and systems! We have strength and depth in our practice group. We work actively with systematising what we do so it can be done efficiently and effectively. We maintain close ties with our M&A colleagues, learning from each other, and ensuring we are brought in how and when appropriate. We are in good shape for the increasing workload.
HAS THE SWEDISH COMPETITION AUTHORITY MIRRORED THE STRICTER APPROACH TO PROCEDURAL ISSUES NOW BEING EXPERIENCED AT EU-LEVEL, FOR EXAMPLE AS REGARDS GUN-JUMPING?
To some extent, yes. For example, the Swedish Authority used its “stop the clock” powers in a merger context for the first time in summer 2018, following failure by the notifying party to respond in time to a request for information (time started to run again after 19 days) This may signal a tightening up procedurally, motivated by a similar climate at the European Commission. It remains the case, however, that the Swedish framework has somewhat blunter teeth than that of the EC. The potential impact of ECN+ will be interesting in this context.
SWEDEN RECENTLY APPOINTED A NEW DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE COMPETITION AUTHORITY. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR HIM TO ADDRESS IN THE JURISDICTION?
The current director general has now been in the job just over a year. He has overseen, through design or happenstance, something of a spring clean of the caseload of the Swedish Competition Authority, closing many long-running cases. For me, I would like to see some more positive precedent – sensible prioritisation with successful outcomes to guide our work in private practice.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FIELD OF COMPETITION LAW DEVELOPING OVER THE COMING YEARS?
I am not one for crystal-ball gazing but there are areas of commerce in the Nordics that are already fairly concentrated so it will be interesting to see how further consolidation would be handled domestically or at EU-level. Even small add-on deals can be problematic in this context. The Swedish authority can in some circumstances request a notification of a below-threshold merger – we may see more of this.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
We have long held the leading position in the Nordics, the result of hard work and dedication across our team. I am proud to head up this group, combined successfully – for the most part! – with my family life. Not always an easy balance to strike and I can take pride in that.