Mr Nakano graduated with an LLB from the University of Tokyo in 1994 and an LLM from Harvard Law School in 2001 and is admitted to the Bar both in Japan and New York. While he was lecturing at Hitotsubashi University Law School (from 2009 to 2013) he also co-authored Leniency Regimes (part of the European Lawyer Reference series) (fifth edition, 2015) and the Japanese chapters of various other publications.
What attracted you to specialise in competition law?
As a junior associate having no preference for any practice area, I happened to spend approximately a third of my time on each of competition law and capital markets (securities) work, largely due to seating assignments. After enrolling for those subjects at Harvard Law School, I confidently chose to pursue a legal career specialising in competition law. In hindsight, I also have God to thank for making securities laws so super-complex in the US that I chose to pursue competition law, which was far easier to understand.
How does the competition group at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune ensure it stands out in the Japanese market?
To begin with, we make every effort to understand the competitive landscape in the region. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to be called upon for domestic or small regional cartel matters but are very likely to qualify as one of the top contenders for international matters and megadeals, contentious matters where potential exposure to fines is phenomenal, or where the regulators are blatantly challenging the business model of multinational corporations. Accordingly, we tend to focus on our language skills, perfecting our understanding of competition laws of jurisdictions, which frequently affect our clients’ businesses, maintaining an excellent working relationship with foreign law firms, and our ability to envisage and implement strategic action plans, which is where we excel.
How does your admission to the New York Bar enhance your current practice?
Printing my admission to the NY bar on my business card avoids me being underestimated. But on a more serious note, gaining exposure to the general US legal system, to the LLM programme at Harvard and to the one-year legal training at Skadden is undoubtedly an asset to me, since my practice revolves around advising clients on the various implications under US law arising from competition matters.
What is the most memorable case you have worked on?
A domestic bid-rigging case involving public procurement of oil-products by the Japan Self-Defence Forces is my most memorable case. It took 15 years from the first dawn raid to resolve all the legal disputes that arose thereafter. Those battles included not only administrative investigations and hearings, but also criminal investigations, litigations and civil litigations. Working through the various aspects of this case, helped me gain invaluable insight into the interplay between competition law on one hand and civil and criminal laws on the other.
How has the recent decrease in JFTC investigations affected competition in the Japanese legal market?
In recent times, the number of JFTC investigations against behavioural matters has reduced to approximately 10 cases per year, which is approximately half of what it was five years ago. Naturally, under such circumstances, the competition gets tough and you have to be at the top of things in order to procure an assignment. But at the same time, it is also worth considering diversifying and applying one’s knowledge to other sub-segments in competition areas, such as merger control and consumer protection in order to keep afloat.
In your opinion, what will be the main challenges facing competition lawyers over the next five years?
The “drought” of international cartel investigations, which is generally good for society, could lessen the number of opportunities to gain exposure to cartel matters (particularly for senior associates). That said, I am not super-pessimistic about the situation as the number of mega-deals remain high and those younger lawyers may have more exposure to merger control.
What advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to specialise in competition law?
Accumulate experiences by working on a variety of competition-related matters, including challenging ones. As competition law comes with various sub-segments sharing common principles, experiences really matter.
Also, don’t forget to remain internationalised. Catching up with developments in other jurisdictions would help you as enforcers are learning from what other enforcers are doing.
What is the key to your success?
I have yet to prove myself to be successful, but it appears I am fortunate enough to have been able to gain access to the road to success so far. By continuing to work hard and dedicate my time, skill and resources on challenging matters and living on takeaway meals, I hope to be able to look back and be proud of my career when I retire someday.
Having a good personal life is also a significant contributing factor to success. I would, therefore, like to renew my gratitude to my family for having put up with me and my absence in their lives for so long and for being very kind when I am home.
Yusuke Nakano sits among Japan's elite competition specialists and is praised by peers who say he is "very respected in the market" and has a "a strong reputation".
Yusuke Nakano is a partner at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, with broad experience in the areas of antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, business dispute resolution, and intellectual property.
He has represented a variety of companies in relation to administrative investigations and hearing procedures conducted by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), and in criminal and civil antitrust cases. As the JFTC's enforcement focuses on cartel matters, so does his domestic practice. In one private monopolisation case, his best efforts resulted in the JFTC's termination of the investigation without any cease-and-desist order. He also has extensive knowledge and experience in merger control, and was involved in the first foreign-to-foreign merger case against which the JFTC launched an investigation.
On an international scale, Mr Nakano has assisted many Japanese companies and individuals involved in antitrust cases in foreign jurisdictions, in close cooperation with local counsel in those jurisdictions. As a result, Mr Nakano has gained substantial experience in the actual enforcement of competition law by foreign authorities, such as the US DOJ and the European Commission. He has also assisted a major Japanese consumer electronics maker in obtaining clearance in various jurisdictions, as a leader of the global counsel team.
Mr Nakano is a graduate of the University of Tokyo (LLB, 1994) and Harvard Law School (LLM, 2001). He is admitted to the Bar in both Japan and New York, and was a lecturer at Hitotsubashi University Law School (2009–2013). He is a co-author of Leniency Regimes (part of the European Lawyer Reference series; fifth edition, 2015) and the Japanese chapters of various other publications.