Photo of Sophie Bertin

Sophie Bertin is a senior advisor to Covington in their Financial Services and Antitrust practice. Her current focus is on financial services topics, ranging from State aid, implementation of regulations, interplay between various regulations, including the new data protection rules; as well as the impact of new technologies (like Blockchain) on the financial services business models and resulting competition challenges.

Sophie has over 20 years of professional experience and she has broad experience helping banking clients on their strategy, restructuring, reorganization, risk management, regulatory and compliance, back-office operations and automation, as well as, advising on various issues around banking regulation and competition law (most notably State aid).

On 13-14 July, Covington’s Peter Camesasca and Sophie Bertin participated in panels discussing developments in Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) and Competition enforcement and compliance at the annual Competition Law Asia-Pacific Conference.

Foreign Direct Investment Regimes

On the first day of the conference, Covington partner Peter Camesasca moderated a group of diverse panellists on recent

Companies that benefit from non-EU state support or subsidies will soon face heightened scrutiny in the European Union (EU) as the European Commission unveiled on May 5 its proposed Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market.  As its name suggests, the proposed Regulation will create a new tool to address what the European Commission sees as a “regulatory gap” in avoiding potential distortions caused by companies receiving non-EU subsidies and ensuring a “level playing field” in the EU.  Perhaps emblematic of its perceived importance at a time where calls from Member States to tackle potential distortive foreign investment have multiplied, it took the European Commission less than a year from the publication of the White Paper on levelling the playing field with respect to foreign subsidies to analyze the results of its public consultation and to put this proposal to the EU legislator.

The proposed Foreign Subsidies Regulation is wide-ranging and will apply in addition to the existing merger control and Foreign Direct Investment screening mechanisms.  Given the strong support it has received from most Member States and European industry bodies, it is widely anticipated that this new tool will be written into law without material change.

Here is what foreign companies that receive any form of non-EU public support and are active or considering deals involving the EU need to know, and prepare for.
Continue Reading More scrutiny to come in the EU for companies that receive non-EU subsidies

Covington represented Riga International Airport and the Latvian State in obtaining State aid approval for the recapitalization of Riga International Airport. On March 8, 2021, the European Commission (EC) approved the state recapitalization of up to €39.7 million, comprising a capital injection and a waived dividend payment for the 2019 financial year.
Continue Reading Covington Helps Riga Airport Secure EC Recapitalization Approval

On 17 February 2021, the General Court of the European Union (“General Court”) in Cases T-259/20 and T-238/20 dismissed Ryanair’s challenges to pandemic aid packages introduced in France and Sweden in order to support the domestic airline sector. The judgments are the first ones where the General Court has decided on the legality of the State aid schemes adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading EU General Court dismisses first two challenges to State aid awarded to national airlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Commission’s Temporary Framework for State aid measures supporting the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic (the “Temporary Framework”) is proving to be a success.  More than 200 Member State schemes and individual measures have been cleared under the Temporary Framework since its adoption in March 2020.  It seeks to provide the European economy with a platform to recover from the crisis while limiting distortions of competition in the Internal Market.

On 28 January 2021, the European Commission (“Commission”) adopted a fifth amendment (the “Amendment”) to the Temporary Framework (see our post on the Temporary Framework here, of the first amendment here and of the second amendment here). The third amendment expanded mostly the Framework to further support micro, small and start-up companies and incentivise private investments. The fourth amendment mostly prolonged the validity of the Framework and introduced new possibilities for the State to exit from recapitalised companies while maintaining its previous stake in those companies. The New Amendment extends further the Temporary Framework until 31 December 2021.
Continue Reading The Commission Publishes the Latest Extension of the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the Covid-19 outbreak

On 17 June 2020, the European Commission (‘Commission’) published a White Paper “on levelling the playing field as regards foreign subsidies” which outlines a proposal for a series of new investigatory and enforcement tools, intended to identify and counteract the possible distortions of competition in the EU single market due to foreign subsidies. A public consultation ran until 23 September 2020, inviting stakeholders to provide their views on the options set out in the White Paper.
Continue Reading The European Commission Adopts a White Paper on Foreign Subsidies to Protect the EU Single Market

On 8 May 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) adopted a second amendment (the “New Amendment”) to the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak (the “Temporary Framework”) (see our previous post on the Temporary Framework here and on the first amendment here). The New Amendment sets out the conditions under which Member States may provide equity and/or hybrid capital (“Recapitalisation Measures”) as well as subordinated debt to non-financial undertakings that face serious economic difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Continue Reading The European Commission Includes Recapitalisation Measures in the Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy During the COVID-19 Outbreak

On 3 April 2020, the European Commission adopted an amendment (the “Amendment”) extending the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak (The “Temporary Framework”) (See our previous post on the Temporary Framework here). The Amendment aims in particular to facilitate the grant of aid for the research, testing and production of products relevant for the fight against COVID-19 (e.g., medicines, vaccines, disinfectants, medical devices and equipment), as well as to protect jobs and to further support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Continue Reading The Commission amends the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak

On 19 March 2020, the European Commission adopted a Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak (“The Framework”). The Framework is based on Article 107(3)(b) of the TFEU, which allows State aid to be granted in order to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy. It sets out the conditions under which the Commission will assess State aid granted by Member States to remedy liquidity shortages and problems in access to finance undertakings are faced with and to ensure that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak do not undermine their viability. Measures that meet the conditions set out in the Framework must be notified to the Commission but will be considered to be compatible with the Internal Market.

Continue Reading The Commission’s Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy during the COVID-19 Outbreak

On 24 September 219, the General Court (“GC”) delivered its long awaited judgments on the European Commission’s (“Commission”) decisions finding that tax rulings granted to Starbucks and Fiat constituted State aid. The GC annulled the Commission’s decision on Starbucks but upheld the Commission’s decision on Fiat. The judgements confirm that State aid rules enable the Commission to review whether tax rulings endorsing transfer pricing arrangements are in line with the arm’s length principle. However, in order to find that such tax rulings constitute State aid, the Commission must clearly show that they reduced their beneficiaries tax burden and cannot limit itself to pointing out inaccuracies or mistakes in the methodology used to calculate transfer pricings.

Continue Reading The GC’s rulings in Fiat and Starbucks : a green light with a warning