News & Insights

  • 24/02/2021
  • News

Van Bael & Bellis awarded top rankings in Chambers Global 2021

Van Bael & Bellis has once again been awarded top rankings for its Competition and International Trade teams while its Corporate M&A team continues to be ranked among the top independent firms in Brussels by Chambers Global 2021 whose results were recently published online. Fifteen partners feature in the 2021 edition as either senior statesperson, star individual or notable practitioners. Competition team: Chambers Global 2021 recognizes the firm’s strong offering of both EU Competition and domestic competition law noting as strengths: behavioural antitrust matters (cartels and abuse of dominance), handling significant appeals against Commission decisions, follow-on damages claims, strategic advice on lawsuits filed in multiple EU jurisdictions, advising major multinational companies on compliance matters and merger control. Head of Competition Andrzej Kmiecik “has a wide range of experience in matters relating to vertical agreements and assists [clients] with obtaining merger clearance”. The “experienced competition litigator” David Hull “represents clients in cases before the CJEU, with substantial expertise in the pharmaceutical sector”. One client says: "If we have major competition issues in Europe, we would go to him first." Van Bael & Bellis Founding Partner and Chairman Jean-François Bellis "remains a key litigator in Brussels". While giving him the ranking of “Senior statesperson” (an exceptional individual category), Chambers notes his “substantial history in competition law, providing clients with his experience in contested mergers, as well as abuse of dominance and cartel investigations”. Johan Van Acker who specialises in merger control is "someone I can trust to know our business and our sector and to provide quick, pragmatic advice". Kris Van Hove “is an experienced competition litigator, advising clients on appeals against cartel decisions and defending them in cartel damages actions” and is spoken of as "an excellent competition lawyer" who "stays calm and makes the right judgement calls." Markus Wellinger “represents clients in appeals to the EC in relation to cartel decisions, as well as assisting clients with merger control procedures. He acts for clients from the mining and recycling sectors.” According to clients, Porter Elliott is an "extremely talented, highly skilled lawyer with deep expertise in the area". He acts for clients from the transportation, chemicals and payment services sectors on merger clearance procedures. International Trade team: “Outstanding practice with a tremendous reputation for work opposing the imposition of trade remedies by the EC, acting for an impressive range of clients”, the team supports “European companies in investigations carried out by the EC and other trade authorities across the world”. Key partners are also well known for their presence in WTO proceedings. The team handles diverse customs matters, including disputes with national customs authorities and CJEU referral cases concerning the application of customs law in complex cases. Additional strength in sanctions compliance topics and litigation is also noted. Clients say of the team: "They have huge experience and technical knowledge of the processes," adding: "Whenever we had questions, we could reach out to them and they were immediately answered." "Listening to everyone's requests and accepting the opinions of others is the strength of Van Bael & Bellis." "The cooperation is very uncomplicated, they are flexible and always on time." Benoît Servais is described by clients as "really supportive, brilliant and knowledgeable", adding that "his expertise is beyond expectation". He is reputed for his knowledge of the EC and expertise in anti-dumping investigations. Fabrizio Di Gianni is "highly experienced in trade remedy proceedings and well introduced in the relevant European and national political institutions". Another source notes: "He always lets us know about local cases and developments even when we are not working together". He acts for foreign exporters on EU anti-dumping investigations and for European manufacturers on proceedings initiated by trade authorities in various jurisdictions. Jean-François Bellis is also given the rank of “Senior statesperson” in this area, being described as “a highly reputed figure in the international trade space, noted for his extensive experience and role as the firm's founder”. Head of the Customs practice, Pablo Muñiz “advises on customs and sanctions matters, including tariffs and free trade agreements, often representing clients before the EU General Court and WTO.” Managing Partner Philippe De Baere is given the ranking of “Star individual” (having received exceptional recommendations). He is reputed for his experience in trade defence investigations carried out by the EC, with further activity in WTO proceedings. He garners praise for his communication skills, with one client noting that "he understands people very well and what is the priority for different people". Richard Luff is "extremely experienced, which you recognise from whatever he is saying. From one to ten, he is ten at his level". He often advises exporters based outside the EU on EC anti-dumping or countervailing measures. Yuriy Rudyuk “is lauded for his pragmatic approach and responsiveness. He advises Eastern European-based industrial companies on trade defence investigations carried out by trade authorities.” International Trade / WTO (Global Market Leaders): As regards the extra-EU International Trade space, Chambers views Van Bael & Bellis as a “widely respected firm headquartered in Brussels and bolstered by a fully dedicated team in Geneva” and states that “Van Bael & Bellis is known for its outstanding work in all aspects of Europe-wide international trade and WTO”. The firm offers: • Renowned expertise in WTO and trade remedy matters, • Experience representing several government ministries in anti-dumping and countervailing disputes with the EU. • A robust trade customs practice. • An active involvement with Latin American, Asian and Russian clients. "Van Bael & Bellis is fully qualified to opine about EU trade sanctions. If you have an issue around US trade sanctions, you have the benefit of their connections, without having to directly seek to find US counsel, which is very helpful. I needed a global picture, and that's what I got. " Both Founding Partner Jean-François Bellis and Managing Partner Philippe De Baere are named for their work in the firm's international trade and customs team. Corporate M&A: The “reactive and client-minded” Michel Bonne heads the “solid” Corporate M&A team and is “a pragmatic and problem-solving oriented lawyer” who advises on a broad range of matters including auction sales, acquisitions and corporate restructurings and represents private equity houses and venture capital investors. Dispute Resolution: Head of Litigation the “experienced litigator” Catherine Longeval is noted for being “particularly adept at handling mandates within the life sciences sector”.

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    • 26/02/2021
    • News

    The implication of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) for the automotive sector

    On 24 December 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom concluded the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part (the “TCA”), which is provisionally applied from 1 January 2021. The TCA forms the basis of the new bilateral relationship between the EU and the UK. The withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the terms of the TCA have changed the way in which goods are traded between the EU and the UK. For an industry that is as integrated as the automotive sector, these changes are significant. This Client Alert expands on our Client Alert “Implications of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on trade in goods”, by focusing on the TCA’s provisions relevant to the automotive sector, in particular the provisions regarding the rules of origin and technical barriers to trade.

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    • 19/02/2021
    • Articles

    European Commission Presents Hera Incubator to Bolster Fight against Coronavirus

    On 17 February 2021, the European Commission (the Commission) presented an updated version of the Vaccine Strategy which it had adopted in June 2020 to tackle the coronavirus (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 18 June 2020). The update was prompted by the need to address the increased threat of Covid-19 variants and is called somewhat bombastically the Hera Incubator because it foreshadows the future European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), whose advent was announced in November 2020 as part of the incipient European Health Union (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 12 November 2020). The Hera Incubator has 3 main components that, in turn, cover a range of detailed action points: • To detect, analyse and assess variants – The EU will support the development of specialised tests to detect new variants and support with at least EUR 75 million the associated genomic sequencing. The research and data exchange on variants will be bolstered with separate funding of EUR 150 million. The Commission also plans to launch the VACCELERATE COVID-19 clinical trial network which brings together 16 EU Member States and five associated countries, including Switzerland and Israel, to exchange data and include children and young adults as trial participants. • To speed up regulatory approval of adapted vaccines – The new rules will be modelled on the annual influenza vaccine model. The EU will also facilitate the certification of new or repurposed manufacturing sites by involving the regulatory authorities early. • To increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines – The Commission plans to adapt existing Advance Purchase Agreements and conclude new such agreements to support the development of new and adapted vaccines through EU funding. On 17 February 2021, the Commission already approved a second contract with Moderna that provides for an additional purchase of 300 million doses. Furthermore, the Commission also promises to establish “a detailed and credible plan showing capability to produce vaccines in the EU”. The overall EU manufacturing capacity will be expanded by the “EU FAB” project, a network of emergency response production facilities for vaccine and medicine manufacturing at EU level. Separately, the Commission will develop a voluntary dedicated licensing mechanism to facilitate technology transfer. This is probably a signal that the Commission will not follow the path of compulsory patent licences. The attached documents contain detailed information on the Commission’s plans.

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    • 19/02/2021
    • Articles

    European Commission | Assessment of Member State Rules on Health Data in Light of GDPR

    On 12 February 2021, the European Commission’s DG Health and Food Safety published an assessment of the EU Member State rules governing health data in the light of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR). The study’s objective was to examine possible differences between Member States and identify elements that might affect the cross-border exchange of health data in the EU for the purposes of healthcare, research, innovation and policy-making. The European Commission concluded that the existing fragmented approach of national rules governing health data between Member States hampers cross-border co-operation in the provision of healthcare, the administration of healthcare systems and research carried out so as to further public health objectives. The study discusses the use of health data for primary purposes (patient care), for secondary use in public health and for scientific or historical purposes. For each of these uses, the study analyses the legal bases for processing the data under the GDPR and inquires whether local legislation provides for alternatives to the use of consent as a legal basis. In response to the challenges identified, the study suggests actions at EU level to support the European Health Data Space and ensure the best possible use of health data. Furthermore, the study shows that co-operation between the EU Member States is crucial as it should draw on the work of national data protection authorities that come together as the European Data Protection Board, as well as on the numerous national and EU level bodies. Please click on the link below for a short article on the Commission’s assessment.

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    • 19/02/2021
    • News

    EU and Canada Adopt Rules for Implementation of Investment Court System

    On 29 January 2021, the European Union and Canada adopted four decisions aimed at further implementing the Investment Court System in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada, of one part, and the European Union and its Member States, of the other part. The Decisions will enter into force upon ratification of CETA by the EU Member States. This Client Alert provides a general overview of the decisions adopted for the implementation of the Investment Court System.

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    • 15/02/2021
    • Articles

    Belgium Creates Exceptional Regime for Temporary Reimbursement of Medicines

    The Royal Decree of 26 January 2021, which entered into force on 13 February 2021, establishes a regime for the temporary reimbursement of medicines “under exceptional circumstances or in situations of force majeure” that must be defined by the Council of Ministers (the Royal Decree). The temporary reimbursement will be achieved following a short procedure that only involves a proposal by the Service Medical Treatment of the National Institute for the Insurance of Disease and Invalidity (Dienst voor geneeskundige verzorging van het Rijksinstituut voor Ziekte-en Invaliditeitsverzekering/Service des soins de santé de l'Institut national d'assurance maladie-invalidité), an opinion by the Commission for the Reimbursement of Medicines (Commissie Tegemoetkoming Geneesmiddelen/Commission de remboursement des médicaments) (CRM) and a final reasoned decision by the Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health (Minister van Sociale Zaken en Volksgezondheid/Ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Santé publique). Crucially, the marketing authorisation holder (MAH) of the medicine at issue will not be heard. This is a dramatic departure from the regular reimbursement procedure governed by the Royal Decree of 1 February 2018 which can only be initiated by an application of the MAH and which provides for a repeated back and forth between the MAH and the CRM. The temporary reimbursement is designed to ensure that patients will not be deprived of “proper therapeutical means” (deugdelijke therapeutische middelen/moyens thérapeutiques valables) for financial reasons or otherwise. The new regime came into being because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but its application clearly transcends this crisis. The temporary reimbursement of a given medicine will apply during a stated period, during the time of the specific crisis that prompted the reimbursement or until the medicine becomes reimbursable as a result of a reimbursement decision which is based on a regular reimbursement application.

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    • 12/02/2021
    • Newsletters

    VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2021, No. 1

    The January 2021 issue of our Belgian Business Law newsletter reporting on the latest developments in a range of areas, including competition, data protection, intellectual property and labour law.

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    • 11/02/2021
    • Articles

    European Commission Accepts Aspen Commitments and Closes First Pharmaceutical Excessive Pricing Case

    The European Commission (the Commission) terminated on 10 February 2021 its first formal investigation of allegedly excessive medicine prices after accepting a series of pricing and supply commitments from Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. (Aspen) (see, attached press release and question and answer document). The commitments concern five oncological medicines sold in various presentations under the brand names Alkeran®, Lanvis®, Leukeran®, Myleran® and Purinethol®. The Commission had opened an investigation in May 2017 over concerns that Aspen had abused its dominant position in a range of national markets by charging excessive prices for what the Commission labelled as critical medicines for the treatment of leukaemia and other haematological cancers (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 15 May 2017). According to the Commission, Aspen consistently earned very high profits from the sale of the cancer medicines, both in absolute terms and when compared with the profit levels of similar companies in the industry. The Commission specified that Aspen's prices exceeded its costs by almost 300% on average, even if a reasonable rate of return was factored in, and added that it saw no justification for such metrics. The Commission also found that patients and physicians often had no alternatives for Aspen’s medicines, even though the medicines’ active substances had been off-patent for 50 years. The Commission also noted that when national authorities had tried to resist Aspen's requests for price increases, Aspen had threatened to withdraw some medicines from the list of reimbursable medicines. In some cases, Aspen had allegedly even exhibited a readiness to cease supplies to a given market. The Commission summarised Aspen’s commitments as follows: a) Applying a price reduction across Europe for six cancer medicines by, on average, approximately 73%. b) Observing this reduction for ten years from October 2019 onwards. c) Guaranteeing the supply of these medicines for the next five years, and, for an additional five-year period, either continuing to supply or making the marketing authorisations available to third-party suppliers. The non-confidential version of the commitments, which underwent a market test (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 14 July 2020), is detailed in the attached document. The commitments do not apply to Italy where a different regime has applied since September 2016, following a decision by the Italian competition authority. An independent monitoring trustee will supervise Aspen’s compliance with the commitments. In accepting the commitments, the Commission made sure to impose significant and lasting price reductions for medicines that are essential from a public health perspective. However, unlike competition authorities in Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom in other cases, it has not offered regulators and industry the expected guidance on what constitutes excessive pricing.

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    • 10/02/2021
    • News

    Covid-19 | Statutory moratorium on creditors’ rights ended on 31 January 2021

    On 31 January 2021, the temporal scope of the second statutory moratorium for certain enterprises forced to close as a result of the restrictions imposed within the context of the Covid-19 crisis ended. The statutory moratorium was applicable from 24 December 2020 until 31 January 2021 and provided that these enterprises were protected against (i) bankruptcy and judicial dissolution, (ii) attachment and enforcement measures and (iii) termination of existing contracts due to non-payment. As a result of the non-extension of the protection measures, enterprises are now again exposed against claims for bankruptcy and creditors can seize their assets. It is currently envisaged that a new law will be adopted that aims at simplifying the judicial reorganisation procedure, for example by easing the formal conditions to open such procedure, extending the situations in which a judicial officer can be appointed, etc. This draft bill is expected to be adopted by March 2021.

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    • 10/02/2021
    • News

    'Pink Boxes' for Parents-to-be Fined by Belgian DPA

    The Belgian Data Protection Authority imposed a fine of EUR 50,000 on the marketing company Family Service, which distributes “pink boxes” – well known by mothers and fathers-to-be in Belgium – for various breaches of the GDPR. Not only did the company rent out and/or sell the data of more than one million customers, including the data of children, for commercial purposes without informing its customers in a clear and comprehensible manner. The company also transferred these personal data to its business partner without obtaining a freely given, specific and informed consent. The Data Protection Authority considers the decision to be a warning to data brokers that rent or sell personal data under similar business models without proper compliance with the GDPR.

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