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Automotive and Transportation

A sector focus fueled by powerhouse legal practices and industry experience

Dechert’s automotive and transportation sector team mobilizes the firm’s internationally recognized powerhouse M&A, private equity, creditors’ rights, antitrust, investigations and litigation practices to represent clients around the world in matters ranging from opportune business transactions to formidable regulatory and litigation challenges.

For decades, our lawyers have represented internationally prominent automobile manufacturers, auto parts manufacturers, airlines, software providers, financing groups and other industry players in transactions, financings, regulatory investigations, litigation and antitrust/competition challenges.

Dechert’s many automotive and transportation clients have included Takata (in U.S. and international matters related to the world’s largest automotive recall), Toyota (serving as an independent monitor of safety compliance as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice), DHL Express (USA) (in trial and appellate matters in state and federal courts), Shanghai Shenda (a China-based company in a global joint venture to supply auto products to manufacturers) and US Airways (as antitrust counsel in the US$17 billion merger with American Airlines that created the world’s largest airline).

Standout experience in the fast-evolving, highly-regulated automotive industry

The automotive industry is under regulatory siege. Safety complaints, defects, recalls, government investigations and class actions have plagued the industry in recent years.  The advent of widespread autonomous vehicle technology shines an even brighter spotlight on companies at every level of the industry supply chain.  Dechert represents companies under scrutiny and facing critical challenges — as well as those working to identify and correct compliance deficiencies that put their operations (and survival) at risk.

Dechert’s experience is at the forefront. The firm defended Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata Corporation and its U.S. subsidiary in investigations and litigation that resulted from the recall of over 100 million airbag inflators, the largest automotive recall in history. Dechert navigated Takata through U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), congressional, state attorneys general and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations, and regulatory inquiries in five other countries. Dechert litigators also defended the company in major multi-district litigation and individual personal injury suits filed in state and federal courts across the country.  In a similar matter, Dechert is conducting an internal investigation related to an automotive supplier’s product development, product testing and external communications to determine whether the company communicated accurate test results to its customers in the U.S. and worldwide.  Also, for the U.S. operations of Toyota Motor Corporation, Dechert served as the independent safety monitor, part of the deal that settled a federal criminal investigation into whether Toyota properly reported sudden acceleration complaints.

Now more than ever, industry manufacturers have much to gain from conducting internal investigations and reviewing and renewing compliance, safety procedures and public communications programs. Dechert’s exceptional combination of industry knowledge and experience can help them create robust practices and programs that reinforce compliance and minimize risk and exposure to investigations, enforcement and civil litigation.

Experience

Automotive

  • Takata, a Japanese automotive parts company, in connection with civil litigation; criminal (DOJ), state attorneys general, and U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations; congressional hearings; and international regulatory investigations related to defective airbags.
  • Toyota, a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer, as an independent monitor regarding compliance with safety efforts as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Daimler AG, a German multinational automotive corporation, in the Hong Kong High Court in an attempt to set aside a longstanding settlement agreement.
  • Nissan Renault, a Franco-Japanese strategic partnership between automobile manufacturers Renault, based in France, and Nissan, based in Japan, in connection with the formation of and securing antitrust clearance for Covisint, the business-to-business supply chain exchange.
  • Freightliner Corporation, an American truck manufacturer, and Ford Motor Company, a global company based in Michigan, in securing antitrust clearance for Freightliner’s acquisition of Ford’s heavy-duty truck business.
  • Shanghai Shenda, a China-based company, in connection with Shenda’s agreement to form a global joint venture to supply soft trim and acoustics products to automotive original equipment manufacturers with International Automotive Components. The joint venture will operate 21 manufacturing facilities and 4 technical centers around the world. This transaction involved a multidisciplinary team of Dechert lawyers from more than 14 offices globally.
  • A leading international automotive supplier in a fraud investigation by the US DOJ.
  • Executives in US DOJ Antitrust division grand jury investigations of price fixing by auto parts manufacturers.

Aviation

  • US Airways as antitrust merger clearance and litigation counsel in creating the world’s largest airline through a US$17 billion merger with American Airlines.
  • Aer Lingus in numerous challenges brought by Ryanair in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in relation to the UK’s investigation into Ryanair’s minority stake; and the related challenges brought by Ryanair before the General Court in relation to the EU’s block on Ryanair’s hostile bids. We have also worked with Aer Lingus on the protection of its interests in the UK air cargo damages litigation and in relation to Ireland’s air passenger tax and associated state aid proceedings before the European Commission and European Courts.
  • American Airlines in more than 100 putative class action lawsuits and a related DOJ civil investigation alleging that airlines coordinated capacity. These lawsuits, which were filed around the country, were transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.

Logistics

  • DHL Express (USA) in trial and appellate matters pending in state and federal courts around the U.S., including in California, Michigan, New York and Utah.
  • Deutsche Post DHL in numerous matters as a longstanding client of our partners in the EU Antitrust group and the U.S. litigation team.
  • Deutsche Bahn in numerous EU antitrust matters. 
  • Cargolux in the context of the highly publicized global air cargo cartel investigations and subsequent civil litigation. Cargolux was one of the main defendants. In a landmark decision, the European Commission’s fine was scrapped by the General Court.

Rail

  • Grupo Mexico SAB de CV’s transportation business unit, GMéxico Transportes S.A. de C.V, in its proposed acquisition of the Florida East Coast Railway Holdings Corp, a Coral Gables-based freight transportation business.
  • CIT Group, a U.S.-based financial holding company, in connection with its acquisition of Paris-based Nacco SAS, one of Europe’s largest independent full-service railcar lessors.

Maritime

  • major bank in connection with a forward funding facility for construction of 180 new covered hopper barges for a major Midwestern grain distributor under a build-to-suit synthetic lease financing facility.
  • lead lender in the financing of a 17.29-ton tug barge worth approximately US$60 million.
  • Princess Cruise Lines in a settlement and resolution of a criminal investigation with the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of DOJ for environmental offenses.
Litigation

Dechert represents automotive and transportation industry companies in state and federal litigation as well as in U.S. and international arbitrations. We defend against product liability, consumer fraud and breach of warranty actions, as well as handle complex commercial disputes and securities litigation. The team is especially adept in class action defense, with experience in every phase from defeating certification to securing defense jury verdicts, and has wide-ranging experience as coordinating counsel in multi-district litigation. Our litigators also defend companies and individuals facing allegations of financial and business-related misconduct in enforcement investigations. The firm works closely with its clients to manage large-scale e-discovery issues in a cost-effective manner.

Intellectual property

Our IP lawyers devise strategies to enhance clients’ market position, protect them from allegations of infringement and unfair competition, and, when necessary, enforce their IP rights against others. In the automotive industry, driverless technology is here to stay, presenting manufacturing, technology and other companies with new opportunities for making revolutionary technological advances and creating new revenue streams. Much is at stake. Our IP lawyers deliver forward-thinking patent filing strategies, prepare technical applications, and counsel on trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing agreements, all of which are essential in this complex area where traditional automobile design and technologies are converging with new software, telematics and telecom technologies.

Antitrust/competition

Dechert’s internationally-lauded antitrust/competition practice represents major household-name clients in often difficult merger clearance, litigation and business planning.  Dechert was US Airways’ antitrust counsel in the US Airways/American Airlines US$17 billion merger which, successfully cleared, created the world’s largest airline. As for many antitrust clients, Dechert formed a public relations strategy that reinforced the merger’s benefits and countered media and congressional opposition. Dechert prepared company executives testifying before the congressional antitrust subcommittees, quarterbacked presentations to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), led US Airways’ defense in litigation initiated by the DOJ and by seven state attorneys general to enjoin the proposed merger, negotiated settlements with state and federal plaintiffs and handled the required divestitures.

Business transactions

Dechert’s M&A lawyers structure complex mergers, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures and other transactions for automotive and transportation industry clients in the United States, before the European Union and elsewhere in the world. Known for creative legal solutions and a commercial approach, the practice also advises on transactions’ financial and market implications. Legal and business sources, among them Bloomberg, Chambers, Legal 500 and IFLR 1000, have recognized Dechert as a top M&A law firm in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

For corporate investors, our private equity lawyers advise on their investments in or acquisitions of positions in private equity funds. We evaluate the proposed investment, negotiate investment terms and review documentation. For example, we represented leading automotive supplier Continental in its contemplated private equity investment in Easymile, a high-tech start-up specializing in driverless vehicles and smart mobility. Dechert has been named a top private equity law firm by Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, The Deal and Chambers.

The firm structures big ticket equipment financings and synthetic lease financings, primarily for equity and debt investor clients. Much of our work focuses on rail, aircraft, vessels and other specialized transportation equipment, and the financings often involve cross-border parties. Our lawyers also team with the firm’s creditors’ rights lawyers to advise lessors and lenders on bankruptcy and workout matters.

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