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Andreas Mildner

Andreas Mildner is an associate in Covington’s antitrust and EU competition team in Frankfurt and Brussels. His focus lies on European and German antitrust / competition law as well as the regulatory aspects of foreign direct investments (FDI).

Andreas has assisted clients from different sectors, including (digital) technology, energy and life sciences industries.

In quick succession on 7 and 15 November 2023, the Administrative Court of Berlin (Verwaltungsgericht Berlin, the “VG Berlin”) has ruled on procedural matters in foreign direct investment review proceedings of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (the “BMWK”) in two hearings. Because court rulings on these non-public administrative proceedings – which are non-public because they concern national security and public order – have been very rare to date, the court’s clarifications will contribute to legal certainty for companies involved in the proceedings and the BMWK.

Key takeaways

  • In its rulings, the VG Berlin overturned two BMWK decisions on purely formal grounds without having to deal with material law questions (such as the standards of assessment of the BMWK’s or individual case groups of sensitive activities).
  • In the future, the BMWK will need to adhere to the formalistic procedure to be able to effectively enforce its decisions in the event of security concerns regarding foreign investments.

From a practical perspective, it would be regrettable if the open, direct and easily accessible communication channels with the BMWK, which have been appreciated by all parties involved in the proceedings to date, would have to give way to a much more formalistic administrative practice. The BMWK’s open communication has significantly reduced the average duration of investment review procedures and made it easier for companies and legal practitioners to work with the (still developing) German investment review regime.Continue Reading Berlin court clarifies significant German FDI issues

Das Verwaltungsgericht Berlin (VG Berlin) hat in zwei kurz aufeinanderfolgenden Verhandlungen vom 7. und 15. November 2023 zu Verfahrensfragen bei Investitionsprüfverfahren des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (BMWK) geurteilt. Da Gerichtsentscheidungen zu diesen nichtöffentlichen Verwaltungsverfahren – es geht um die nationale Sicherheit und öffentliche Ordnung – bisher sehr rar sind, werden die gerichtlichen Klarstellungen zur Rechtssicherheit für verfahrensbeteiligte Unternehmen sowie das BMWK beitragen.

Wesentliche Punkte

  • In seinen Urteilen hat das VG Berlin zwei Entscheidungen des BMWK aus rein formellen Gründen gekippt, ohne dass es sich mit materiell-rechtlichen Fragen befassen musste (etwa zum Beurteilungsmaßstab des BMWK oder einzelnen Fallgruppen sicherheitsrelevanter Aktivitäten).
  • Das BMWK wird künftig wahrscheinlich stärker auf eine formal-korrekte Verfahrensführung achten, um seine Entscheidungen bei Sicherheitsbedenken gegenüber Auslandsinvestitionen wirksam durchsetzen zu können.

Aus Praxissicht wäre es bedauerlich, wenn dadurch die – von allen Verfahrensbeteiligten bislang geschätzte – offene Kommunikation mit dem BMWK mitsamt kurzer Dienstwege und guter Erreichbarkeit einer deutlich formalistischeren Verwaltungspraxis weichen müsste. Denn durch die offene Kommunikation hat das BMWK die durchschnittliche Verfahrensdauer von Investitionsprüfungen deutlich reduziert und Unternehmen sowie Rechtsanwendern die Arbeit mit dem (noch jungen) deutschen Investitionsprüfungsregime erleichtert.Continue Reading VG Berlin zu Verfahrensfragen bei der Investitionsprüfung

Based on the 11th Amendment to the German Competition Act (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, “GWB”) that was passed by the German parliament (Bundestag) on 6 July 2023, the GWB will undergo significant reform (the “Reform”). Among other Reform amendments, attention has focused on the Federal Cartel Office’s (Bundeskartellamt, “FCO”) new powers in the context of sector inquiries (Sektoruntersuchungen). According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz, “BMWK”), the amendments intend to strengthen business opportunities for competitors, start-ups and small / medium sized entities.

For the first time under German competition law, the FCO will obtain powers to take remedial measures following sector inquiries, even where the addressee has not been found to have engaged in anti-competitive conduct. Under the Reform, the FCO will be able to take measures where it identifies a significant and continuing ‘disruption of competition’ (Störung des Wettbewerbs) in the relevant market. Such measures will include – as ultima ratio – divestment orders (new Section 32f of the GWB).

In this blog-post we: explain the concept of sector inquiries under the GWB in general; and analyse the key amendments to the FCO’s sector inquiry powers, the most significant changes under the Reform.Continue Reading Sector Inquiries and the German new (and complicated) Competition Toolbox