The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Carrie C. Mahan, Partner—Litigation
Carrie Mahan is a partner in Weil’s Washington, DC, office, where she has a diverse practice advising clients on antitrust and consumer protection issues in government investigations and private litigation, as well as mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures.
Ms. Mahan has extensive experience representing clients in all major antitrust venues, including both state and federal courts and federal, state, and international competition and consumer protection enforcement agencies. Her ability to develop unique arguments under complex antitrust theories has led her to play a leading role in the defense and overall strategy for many key clients, including large joint defense groups. Most recently, she was appointed as liaison counsel for 20 defendants in the federal antitrust class actions and direct action complaints being litigated in In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation.
Ms. Mahan works closely with clients to secure approvals of proposed mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures from the DOJ and FTC; she has also favorably resolved a number of civil and criminal non-public investigations by enforcement authorities without litigation or public disclosure. Additionally, she represents clients in criminal investigations before the Antitrust Division, including a recent grand jury investigation in the media industry.
Ms. Mahan is consistently recognized for Antitrust Litigation by Super Lawyers and recommended for Civil Litigation/Class Actions by Legal 500 US.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Weil prides itself on, and has a reputation for, securing antitrust approval for highly complex deals that require sophisticated analysis and advocacy before the U.S. antitrust agencies. Weil offers global solutions to our clients’ antitrust transactional needs with one of the largest, most diversified, and well-respected practices in the world. We coordinate multi-jurisdictional filings to assure maximum chances for swift approval and help clients structure transactions and business practices to minimize antitrust concerns. Collaborating with lawyers in Weil’s M&A, Intellectual Property, Restructuring, and Corporate Governance practices, we provide integrated solutions to competition-related business issues.
On the litigation front, our expertise spans all types of civil cases before judges and juries in state and federal courts across the country. Our approach emphasizes streamlined, targeted efficiency—focusing strategy and resources on early advantageous claim resolution where practical and advisable. Our team has prevailed for clients in “bet-the-company” litigations at Rule 12 without discovery, at class certification (both winning certification for plaintiffs and defeating it for defendants), and at summary judgment. If trial is required, the team has an unparalleled bench of top-notch trial lawyers who have secured complete jury verdicts for clients.
Weil successfully litigates competitor vs. competitor cases and other private antitrust lawsuits involving allegations of collusion, illegal pricing, and restraints of trade, as well as monopolization claims. Additionally, Weil is among the top firms in the cartel space and has been involved in some of the largest cartel investigations in recent years. We have coordinated international cartel defense in many of the leading “hot spot” jurisdictions around the world for enforcement.
What types of clients do you represent?
Weil represents high-profile clients from a broad range of industries, including: Allergan, Bridgestone, Chemtrade, CBS, Hilton Worldwide, Johnson & Johnson, Kinder Morgan, Panasonic, Pilgrim’s Pride, Providence Equity, Sanofi, Sherwin Williams, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Signet Jewelers, Simon & Schuster, and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I have the opportunity of working on all types of cases. In any given week, I could be negotiating a merger with the FTC or DOJ, arguing to defeat class certification in federal court, negotiating the quiet closure of a grand jury investigation, or counseling a client on how to achieve a business goal in a way that mitigates legal risk to avoid the courts and the government.
I am lead counsel for Pilgrim’s Pride in In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, where I was appointed liaison counsel for more than 20 defendants in defending more than 30 complaints, including three class actions. Having successfully defeated a purported class action against Hilton at Rule 12 several years ago, I was asked by Hilton to lead their defense when both a class action and a direct suit were filed alleging a hotel conspiracy regarding key word bidding. I have led the defense of Michael Foods for many years in In re Processed Eggs Antitrust Litigation. Over 10 years of litigation, arguing on behalf of the entire defense group, I successfully defeated indirect purchaser class certification and a direct purchaser class and prevailed on various summary judgment motions.
I also have the opportunity to work closely with my clients on their transactional matters, securing approvals of proposed mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures from both the DOJ and the FTC. This year, I was thrilled to obtain the clearance without Second Request of longtime client MovieTickets.com in its acquisition by historic competitor Fandango. I also represented The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (A&P) in its chapter 11 case. Through persuasive advocacy to the FTC and effective use of the rarely successful failing firm defense, I secured antitrust clearance from the FTC for the sale of 120 stores to supermarket competitors.
I have several matters in which I represent clients in various grand jury investigations. Most recently, I obtained closure without indictment of a client in an investigation into the media industry.
How did you choose this practice area?
I took some time off between college and law school and had the opportunity to participate in the Outstanding Scholars program as a paralegal at the Antitrust Division of the DOJ. Long debating a career in business versus law, I quickly realized that antitrust was the perfect combination. Diving into proposed mergers requires immediate and complete immersion in an industry—what’s the product, who else makes it, who could make it, how do they make it, what could be used in its place? It barely took a day—I was hooked. During law school, I summered and interned at the FTC with an amazing group of lawyers reviewing pharmaceutical mergers. It was then that I knew antitrust was what I wanted to do. While I ended up in private practice, I continue to work more than two decades later with those same lawyers—a number of whom are now my partners and have long been my friends. Over the years, my practice expanded beyond mergers into the Sherman Act, which presents even more complicated and challenging legal and economic issues. But the consistent thrill of diving into a business problem to navigate complicated legal and economic issues has never lost its allure. I have never looked back or had second thoughts—antitrust was and is for me!
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Generally it is a whirlwind. In addition to juggling a number of litigations and pending transactions, my phone rings regularly with longtime clients who have legal problems they don’t know how to solve. They look to me to help make practical business decisions that achieve the business goal while minimizing the legal risk. The questions come fast and often from a wide variety of areas related to distribution, pricing, technology, customer and vendor relationships, and overall strategic direction.
Given the significance of our cases, I have to employ and manage large teams of attorneys and paralegals. On any given day, I serve as a guide and resource for dozens of professionals at all levels of the legal profession. While my primary job is to serve my clients, the only way to do that long term is to foster and advance those around me. Thus, training, mentoring, and generally acting as a professional sounding board are a large part of my daily schedule.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I look for smart, energetic, and committed people who are looking for a job to love. The ability to analyze complicated scenarios, absorb vast quantities of evidence, and then communicate clearly and concisely the critical facts will equal success in the law. Written advocacy is an enormous part of what we do, so a demonstrated writing ability is a clear advantage. Antitrust experience such as internships with enforcement agencies will move a candidate to the top of the stack every time.
Having sound judgment and the ability to be responsive, take ownership of projects, and work closely with clients are sought-after qualities. A true team player that can jump in with both feet is what we are looking for.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
In antitrust, you never know what the issue will be when the phone rings except that it will be high stakes, complicated, and urgent! Antitrust discovery and fact-finding is vast; it is not uncommon to have tens of millions of documents and hundreds of depositions. Being able to distill a record of that size down to what matters is key. The legal theories are complex, and there almost always is a need for economic experts. Being able to “translate” economic theory and complicated legal theories into a language that lay people can understand forces you to constantly reassess your arguments and presentation style. But these are the same things that make practicing antitrust law so rewarding!
What do you like best about your practice area?
The sheer variety of issues and cases with which I get to deal. I am never bored. Because antitrust encompasses so many aspects of a client’s business—pricing, distribution, customer and vendor relationships, industry and competitor contacts, marketing—I have the opportunity to really learn the business and forge relationships with lawyers and businesspeople company wide. With such an in-depth understanding of the business priorities and realities—and the competing motivation and personalities involved—I am uniquely situated to serve as a trusted advisor and partner and not just the outside counsel they randomly call for one-off legal questions presented in isolation.
What is unique about this practice area at your firm?
Some firms are focused on just one aspect of antitrust. Weil is unique in that we have a strong presence and deep bench across the spectrum of antitrust: regulatory merger clearance, civil litigation and investigations, cartel work, and counseling. Further, our “one firm” approach means we are truly able to tackle highly complex matters around the world, taking advantage of our strengths across other practice areas such as M&A, private equity, and white collar, to name just a few. It is extremely rewarding that we have the best of the best in every area of antitrust. And our record of not only clearing major transactions, but also prevailing in bet-the-company litigation and resolving high-stakes criminal matters helps us retain top-notch attorneys and clients!
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
Summer associates in our practice are treated as regular members of the team. I was the hiring partner in the DC office for nearly a decade, and every summer repeated the same mantra on the first day: If you leave this firm at the end of the summer not having experienced what life will be like as an associate here, then we have both wasted our time. Summer associates are placed on case teams and are at the table when incoming projects are divvied up. This team-based approach enables them to see every aspect of a case during their time at the firm and to participate in a wide variety of projects. If something is happening on their case, they will be a part of it.