Percival (Percy) Billimoria, who is also a chartered accountant by qualification, is a well-regarded arguing counsel. He has represented clients in adversarial matters (litigation and arbitration). He specialises in corporate-commercial matters and is especially known for setting some of the early jurisprudence in competition law. Percy has represented clients before the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi, as well as tribunals such as the erstwhile Competition Appellate Tribunal.
Describe your career to date.
I first started my career with Arthur Andersen as a rookie accountant before setting up a law practice as a litigator. At one point, after economic liberalisation, there were so many M&A matters that I had to divert attention to those. However, I have always been happiest arguing a case as counsel before a court. Even while chairing litigation practices at large law firms – AZB & Partners and later CAM – I represented my clients as counsel. Earlier this year, I set up chambers at New Delhi and practise as a counsel.
What first attracted you to working in the field of competition?
I understand economics and markets and it was, therefore, an obvious area of focus. The rules of statutory interpretation cannot be used on this law without also applying these concepts. When the law was enacted in India I was fortunate to have the guidance of some of the finest lawyers in the USA and the EU. Bill Blumenthal particularly comes to mind. He was general counsel at the DoJ during the Bush era and had just come into private practice. It was fascinating to discuss these concepts with him.
You are known to advise on regulatory matters, as well as representing clients in litigation and arbitration. To what extent do these different facets of your practice complement one another?
There are domain areas and then there are the skill sets. A counsel needs a particular set of skills – that of being able to identify the key issues of the case and then articulating these before a judge. These skills are the same whether he or she is before a court or a tribunal. However, domain knowledge may stride different areas of work or industry sectors.
The domain areas complement each other because it is my corporate-commercial and accounting experience that enables areas of work, such as competition law and tax, to fold into each other. Even in white-collar crime, there is a commercial background to the matter at hand that is essential to appreciate.
Having said that, “corporate/commercial” is a very general description and within this space, there can be several areas that may not be within my range of experience. For instance, I would hesitate to take on intellectual property or environment law matters. In regulatory litigation also, I have done a lot of telecom, aviation and insurance, but not much else.
What makes your practice stand out from others in the market?
At this level, there is not much to choose between counsel. And it is not appropriate for me to comment on anything distinctive that may come across as immodest. However, if any distinction is to be made, my decision to focus only on matters pertaining to my domain knowledge and experience would be a plus that most clients would readily identify. That, and the fact that my emails always end with the refrain that I am available 24/7.
How has the Indian legal market changed since you started practising?
Practices have changed, though not the procedures. Fortunately, fee rates have only gone steadily northwards. Lawyers are more aware of ethical standards and the need to do the right thing by the client. And yes, it’s a lot more competitive than ever before. All good tidings for the profession.
What are the major trends facing competition lawyers in the jurisdiction at the moment?
The market for merger control work depends on M&A trends. I have had the opportunity to set some of the first gun-jumping precedents, but my focus in competition law is on behavioural matters since that’s the adversarial part of it. It’s fair to say that the regulator has been very discerning and is investigating only those that need looking into, and not just everything that comes their way. This may mean fewer matters coming to the courts – but that is just as well since it’s a more mature outlook, and really the way it should be.
Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting case you have worked on?
That’s a difficult pick. In competition law, it’s got to be Schott Glass, which was one of the earliest abuse of dominance matters in India. It’s a complex question and even now not everyone fully gets the differences between volume discounts and loyalty discounts – or understands margin-squeeze for that matter.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
That doesn’t change from one generation to another. Dedication is a bigger factor than in other areas of work. I think to be a successful lawyer you’d better be passionate about the law. There’s no other way.
Percival Billimoria is a key figure in the Indian market where he is known for his leading expertise in competition litigation.
Mr Percival Billimoria (Percy) is a senior partner of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. He heads the New Delhi office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and is the national chair of the firm’s disputes, regulatory, advocacy and policy (DRAP) practice. Percy, who is also a chartered accountant by qualification, has, during a career span of over 28 years, specialised in legal services to international companies and investors doing business in India. His expertise includes commercial and antitrust litigation.
Percy appears before the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) and the Supreme Court of India on antitrust matters, as well as undertaking commercial litigation at other forums. In particular, the matters before the COMPAT concern both behavioural aspects (such as abuse of dominance, cartelisation or vertical restraints) and also disputes pertaining to merger control. Major matters include: representing an explosives manufacturer in defending a finding of bid rigging of a reverse auction held by a leading public sector utility, namely Coal India Limited; representing a manufacturer of glass tubing in an appeal against a finding of abuse of dominance – a matter that is the first appellate decision pertaining to abusive behaviour based on complex antitrust concepts such as discriminatory pricing and margin squeeze (which was nominated for the Best Defence Award by Global Competition Review in 2015, the only nomination from India); and representing a travel services company in the first major gun-jumping litigation before the COMPAT. Recently, Percy has argued before the COMPAT, on behalf of Toyota Motors India, in an appeal against the findings of the CCI on the auto parts abuse of dominance matter.
Percival Billimoria is “a key name” in the Indian market when it comes to high-value disputes relating to various matters, from joint ventures to infrastructure claims.
Mr Percival Billimoria (Percy), also a chartered accountant by qualification, is known for his extensive experience as an arguing counsel (litigation and arbitration), representing international companies and investors doing business in India.
Percy specialises in commercial disputes, especially transnational matters arising from joint ventures, financing documents, construction and infrastructure projects, oil and gas exploration projects, insolvency and restructuring, corporate oppression and mismanagement actions, class actions, writ petitions against regulators and court petitions for execution of decrees of foreign courts.
He also specialises in antitrust matters before the Competition Commission of India (CCI), and appeals to the former appellate tribunal (COMPAT), now the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and thereafter to the Supreme Court of India; white-collar crime, including trials, revision petitions, quashing petitions and appeals; and tax litigation before the various tax tribunals (especially the Delhi Income Tax Appellate Tribunal), the High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
Percy was formerly a senior partner of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, head of the New Delhi office and national chair of the firm’s disputes, regulatory, advocacy and policy (DRAP) practice. Prior to that he was a senior partner at AZB & Partners, chairing their litigation practice from New Delhi.
Some landmark matters in which he successfully appeared as lead counsel include his representation of a Swiss company in the Supreme Court in a landmark decision that settled the question of whether an allegation of fraud is “arbitrable”; a US multinational in the Supreme Court, in a case that addressed a pathological arbitration clause and referred the parties to arbitration by virtually redrafting the clause; a Swiss company in a case where the Supreme Court intervened to stop coercive steps by the authority in a relief seldom granted when the authority pleads the cause of public health and safety; a leading German manufacturer of speciality glass before the former Competition Appellate Tribunal, in a matter that settled the law on margin squeeze, in line with international jurisprudence; an Indian subsidiary of a multinational travel agency before the former Competition Appellate Tribunal in the first appeal against a finding of “gun jumping” by the CCI set out the jurisprudence on the question of when a merger filing is mandatory; and a leading telecom service provider in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal in a matter where the Tribunal decided the manner of computation of “adjusted gross revenue” for the purpose of levying licence fees. This ruling settled disputed sums amounting to several billion rupees and also resulted in a recurring benefit for telecom companies in India.
He also acted for a leading international company and its CEO before the Special CBI Court, the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court, in a matter where the clients were absolved of all charges of corruption and conspiracy, leading to closure of the trial as well as the quashing of proceedings against the CEO, which established the jurisprudence on the question of circumstantial evidence in relation to an alleged conspiracy.
He specialises in large-scale litigation and arbitrations with an emphasis on various multi-jurisdictional disputes, including white-collar crime and ADR. He appears and represents clients before the Supreme Court of India, Presidency Town High Courts, quasi-judicial bodies and arbitral tribunals.