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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

Ikeda & SomeyaYurakucho ITOCiA Office Tower 14th floor2-7-1 YurakuchoChiyoda-kuTokyoJapan100-0006

Thought Leader

Thought Leaders - Competition 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Tsuyoshi Ikeda of Ikeda & Someya is one of Japan’s top competition lawyers. He brings extensive experience at the JFTC to his practice, and is well versed at advising on international cartel issues, merger filing and distribution issues.

Questions & Answers

Yoshi is a founding partner of Ikeda & Someya, a Japanese antitrust boutique established in October 2018. He served as an investigator at the JFTC and was in charge of the implementation of the leniency programme. Before establishing Ikeda & Someya, Yoshi worked for Mori Hamada & Matsumoto. He graduated from Kyoto University (LLB) and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (LLM). He is admitted in Japan, New York and California.

What attracted you to a career in competition law?

I did not have much knowledge of competition law when I first joined the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) after two years in private practice as an IP litigator. However, my prior experience as an IP lawyer gave me an opportunity to work at the IP/IT Taskforce of the JFTC, where I was in charge of the investigation against Qualcomm. The Qualcomm case was not only challenging but also taught me how fascinating competition law is in three ways. 

First, the Qualcomm case involved cross-disciplinary issues including IP, standard setting and antitrust, which were truly intellectually stimulating. In Japan, antitrust is sometimes referred to as economic constitution and it has many intersections with economic activities. Needless to say, competition law issues include data, AI, platforms and others. I can never get bored with emerging competition law issues.

Second, high-profile cases like the Qualcomm case do make differences in the future. After I left the JFTC, I have had the privilege of being involved in high-profile merger, alliance and joint venture cases in many areas such as search technology, semiconductor and oil wholesale. Through these cases, I have also learned that how an antitrust attorney develops his/her arguments makes huge differences in an outcome of the case.

Third, many competition law cases, including the Qualcomm case, have international elements. At that time, other antitrust authorities were also investigating Qualcomm in parallel. While authorities communicate with each other to seek international convergence, competition attorneys have to understand what is going on outside his/her own jurisdiction. In addition to case work in international cartels and merger filings, my experience as the officer of the IBA Antitrust Committee has helped me a lot to develop my relationship with top-notch antitrust experts all over the world.

What were the main challenges you faced when starting your own boutique firm?

Since I established Ikeda & Someya, a new competition and consumer law boutique, back in October 2018 together with another name partner Taka Someya, we have grown much more rapidly than originally planned. At first, we planned to increase the number of attorneys up to five within the first three years. It turned out, however, that our sixth attorney joined in April 2020. Because of this, we had to relocate to a new office building in May 2020 (even though it was during quasi-lockdown period), which is close to Tokyo central station and Ginza district. We now envisage having 10 or more attorneys by early 2021, which makes us one of the largest competition-law teams in Japan. 

Of course, we owe our success to date to many clients, both domestic and international, who have contacted us since our establishment. Through nearly 10 years of experience at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, one of Big Four law firms in Japan, I have learned that many clients have sought alternative competition-law firms in addition to the Big Four. I know that the Big Four are excellent firms, but, clients are often concerned with potential conflict issues and expensive legal fees incurred by multiple young associates. Ikeda & Someya has been recognised as a unique alternative that has the enforcer’s perspective, English capability and cutting-edge experience at a Big Four law firm. 

One major challenge for us right now is hiring. As more and more clients are approaching us, we always seek the best and brightest young talents. I have a sense that antitrust lawyers who deal with regulations are often more risk-averse than corporate lawyers. That being said, thanks to increasing recognition of Ikeda & Someya in the Japanese legal market, we now have more applications for lateral hiring. Hence, we are quite hopeful that we can continue to develop our unique and strong team. 

How has the market changed since you began practising? To what extent has the demand for competition advice grown in recent years?

The competition law market in Japan has grown much larger in volume and variety since I started my legal career in 2003. In the past, the JFTC only focused on bid-riggings in public procurement cases. The JFTC is now recognised as one of the most active enforcers by GCR’s Rating Enforcement survey, and now strongly enforces its antitrust regulations in mergers, vertical restraint and unilateral conduct such as platform issues.

As a competition boutique that has fewer conflict issues than major law firms like Big Four, we are often contacted by clients for projects other than traditional work, namely a party’s representation before the JFTC. Examples of these untypical works include filing a complaint at the JFTC, acting for a third party in a merger review and representation in a private antitrust litigation. These areas are still developing and we are expecting more work for our clients in the future.

How has covid-19 affected your practice? What new issues are being raised as a result of this pandemic?

Luckily enough, Japan is one of the least-affected countries in the world regarding covid-19. Most businesses went back to normal around summer 2020, and the JFTC’s first dawn raid since the covid-19 crisis started took place in September 2020.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, our firm’s revenue in 2020 has more than doubled from the previous year. It is true that the economic recession will become more serious in coming months and years. However, we are hopeful that Ikeda & Someya can be a more affordable choice than the Big Four or law firms with an international brand in an economically difficult time.

We are carefully monitoring whether any change appears in antitrust theory in this unprecedented time. So far, the JFTC has made an announcement that “maximum” retail price maintenance (RPM) is permitted in certain circumstances during this pandemic. This is the first time the JFTC has officially admitted that maximum RPM is allowed under the Japanese antitrust law. We have not seen any change in merger review regime, but are of the view that there might be a slight change in the application of the failing firm doctrine due to the serious economic downturn.

In your opinion, how efficient are virtual proceedings?

As a newly established law firm in 2018, Ikeda & Someya is proud of being tech savvy in response to covid-19. We have been flexibly utilising remote meeting software like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and others in accordance with the client’s preference. As we have allowed our attorneys to work from home since our establishment, we are capable of effectively communicating with each other and with clients through remote meeting software, even during the pre-covid-19 period. The increasing use of remote working tools since the covid-19 crisis has enabled us to work more intensively than ever. We can have a remote meeting with domestic clients in the daytime followed by another meeting with international clients in the evening time, without the need to move from one location to another.

On the other hand, the JFTC and the courts in Japan have limited capability of having virtual meetings so far. If this crisis continues, the JFTC and/or courts will consider taking more advantage of remote meeting technology. It is often said that remote meetings are efficient if it is among people who know others well, while it is difficult to develop a good relationship from scratch through a PC monitor. In this regard, as a former JFTC official who has maintained good relationship with many officials at the JFTC, I am confident that I will be able to have effective meetings with the JFTC, even if they increase the use of virtual meetings in the future.

How is the shift towards enforcement relating to cutting-edge online platforms benefitting your practice and those of younger generations of competition lawyers?

The enforcement of competition law against online platforms is not only the JFTC’s focus but also one of the biggest focuses of our practice. We are proud to have had the opportunity to assist some of the largest platforms even during the first two years since our establishment. These cutting-edge issues do not require a large workforce, which bigger law firms have. But rather, a deep understanding of the relationship between technology and law is key.

In this respect, one cannot emphasise enough the importance for competition lawyers being familiar with businesses and services in a case they are involved in. I personally buy products through major online shopping malls more than 250 times a year instead of going to real shops. Our firm offers free lunch for our associates and staff almost every day, which we purchase through online food delivery services. I am younger than many of the leading competition partners of our competitors. I am among the generation that grew up with the emergence of new technologies like video games, mobile phones and the internet. We, as a competition boutique with young talent, are confident that we can take advantage of our familiarity with modern technology in developing innovative and persuasive arguments in the most cutting-edge cases.

What are your priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?

Again, we are delighted that Ikeda & Someya has been more successful that we expected at first for the first two years. On average, the JFTC opens only 10-20 new formal investigations annually. Our firm has already had opportunities to represent investigated companies in cartel, unilateral conduct and vertical restraint cases. Given that we have no broad discovery or document production unlike jurisdictions such as the US, I am confident that Ikeda & Someya, currently with six lawyers, can handle any type of cases in antitrust and consumer law areas regardless of the size.

When it comes to further future development, as I discussed earlier, hiring more talent is the first priority. In addition to that, I hope to develop our international recognition further in the coming years. My comments have been quoted by the Nikkei, the best-known financial paper in Japan, as many as 50 times since 2013. Fortunately, Ikeda & Someya has been well recognised by Japanese clients despite its short history. On the other hand, the proportion of international clients has decreased compared with my earlier career at a Big Four law firm. I appreciate that WWL and other international rankings have recognised me and Ikeda & Someya as a leading lawyer and law firm in the field of competition law. Nevertheless, I would like to enhance our recognition in the coming years to attract more international clients who used to hire a Big Four or international firm. 

What advice would you give to younger lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?

Many clients are demanding and want their competition lawyer to have comprehensive strength. You have to have a deep understanding of the cutting-edge antitrust topics. Just following the discussion is not enough. You are expected to lead the discussion by publishing articles and newsletters. You also have to have insight into the antitrust authority. Especially, in your own jurisdiction, you are expected to know the people at the antitrust authority and communicate with them smoothly. As many antitrust cases nowadays have international aspects, you also have to have international capability, which means not only language capability but also basic knowledge of foreign antitrust laws, as well as a personal network with experts in the other key jurisdictions.

You may feel that there are too many things to do, but perhaps the most important thing is passion. It is important to keep your passion for competition law and your clients. I have been fortunate that I had many opportunities to represent clients in high-profile cases and to have international experience such as the officer of the IBA Antitrust Committee and the NGA for the JFTC at the ICN. I believe that I have had these precious opportunities because I have been always proud of being a competition lawyer, and have tried my best to achieve the best outcome for my clients.

If I were to give one more piece of advice to younger lawyers working in Japan, I would say “join Ikeda & Someya”. 

Global Leader

Competition 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Tsuyoshi Ikeda of Ikeda & Someya is one of Japan’s top competition lawyers. He brings extensive experience at the JFTC to his practice, and is well-versed at advising on international cartel issues, merger filing and distribution issues.

Peers and clients say:
"He's a really good competition lawyer."
"He is a very bright practitioner." 

Biography

Tsuyoshi (Yoshi) Ikeda is a founding partner of Ikeda & Someya, an antitrust boutique which was just established in October 2018.  Starting with two founding partners, Ikeda & Someya has marked a rapid growth by hiring four associates within the first year and a half.

As a former official of the Investigation Bureau of the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), Yoshi has extensive experience in all aspects of antitrust/competition issues. At the JFTC, he engaged in, among others, the implementation of the leniency programme in Japan and as many as 20 dawn raids. Prior to establishing Ikeda & Someya, Yoshi worked for Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, one of the Big Four law firms in Japan, where he led a number of cutting-edge cases.

Yoshi has been representing multinational companies before the JFTC in international cartels and second phase review merger cases. Yoshi also advises on IP-related antitrust issues such as licensing and standard-essential patents (SEPs), making the best use of his experience in the IP/IT taskforce at the JFTC. He has additional expertise in consumer protection issues, such as false advertising, as well as anti-bribery issues.

He has been appointed as an officer of IBA’s antitrust committee since 2017. He frequently serves as a speaker at international conferences, such as the ICN (as a non-governmental adviser (NGA)) and IBA.

Yoshi is a graduate of Kyoto University (LLB, 2002) and University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) (LLM, 2008). He is admitted in Japan, New York and California. His comments have been quoted in the most popular financial newspaper in Japan, the Nikkei, more than 40 times.

National Leader

Japan - Competition 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Tsuyoshi Ikeda is a “very talented” lawyer known for his “excellent work on antitrust cases in Japan”.

Biography

Tsuyoshi (Yoshi) Ikeda is a founding partner of Ikeda & Someya, an antitrust boutique which was just established in October 2018.  Starting with two founding partners, Ikeda & Someya has marked a rapid growth by hiring four associates within the first year and a half.

As a former official of the Investigation Bureau of the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), Yoshi has extensive experience in all aspects of antitrust/competition issues. At the JFTC, he engaged in, among others, the implementation of the leniency programme in Japan and as many as 20 dawn raids. Prior to establishing Ikeda & Someya, Yoshi worked for Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, one of the Big Four law firms in Japan, where he led a number of cutting-edge cases.

Yoshi has been representing multinational companies before the JFTC in international cartels and second phase review merger cases. Yoshi also advises on IP-related antitrust issues such as licensing and standard-essential patents (SEPs), making the best use of his experience in the IP/IT taskforce at the JFTC. He has additional expertise in consumer protection issues, such as false advertising, as well as anti-bribery issues.

He has been appointed as an officer of IBA’s antitrust committee since 2017. He frequently serves as a speaker at international conferences, such as the ICN (as a non-governmental adviser (NGA)) and IBA.

Yoshi is a graduate of Kyoto University (LLB, 2002) and University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) (LLM, 2008). He is admitted in Japan, New York and California. His comments have been quoted in the most popular financial newspaper in Japan, the Nikkei, more than 40 times.

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