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Sarah Keene


Competition and Antitrust


Sarah heads the firm’s highly successful competition law practice, which has earned the highest New Zealand ranking from the Global Competition Review, a guide to the world’s leading competition law specialists.

Sarah specialises in competition, consumer and regulatory law and litigation and advises clients in relation to Commerce Commission investigations, prosecutions and appeals; the legality of behavioural arrangements and conduct; clearances and authorisations of mergers and acquisitions; and generally in relation to competition law advice, appeals and judicial reviews.

Sarah is the only New Zealander ranked as a Star Individual in Competition and Antitrust by Chambers and Partners Asia-Pacific 2020, making her one of the highest ranked competition lawyers in the country. Additionally, in 2018 and 2016 Sarah was rated New Zealand Competition Lawyer of the Year by the International Law Office Client Choice Awards, and ranked as a market-leading lawyer in the 2019 Asialaw Profiles. Sarah was selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in New Zealand 2021 in the field of Competition and Consumer Law and in the 2020 version of the guide she was voted 'Lawyer of the Year' in her field. Sarah has also featured twice (in 2013 and 2016) as the only New Zealander in the Global Competition Review's '100 Women in Antitrust'.


Sarah brings skill and experience to complex legal issues. She has acted in a number of significant matters including acting for Woolworths-owned supermarket chain Countdown, implicated in a New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) investigation into allegations made in Parliament. Responding to the Commission under Sarah’s advice, Countdown was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sarah also leads a number of high profile consumer law matters, including recently assisting Reckitt Benckiser in responding to the NZCC's charges relating to its indication specific range of Nurofen products.   

Sarah has assisted a number of other major corporations with Commerce commission actions including Fairfax Media, NZME, Spark, Visy, Qantas and Poynter. Recent matters she has acted on include:

  • Assisting Spark to obtain an urgent interlocutory stay of a potential decision by the CC providing clearance for a competitor's business acquisition, which included a number of novel points relating to judicial review of regulatory action including the impact of the voluntary nature of New Zealand's competition clearance regime and steps that might be taken to render rights of judicial review nugatory.
  • Assisting Fairfax and NZME in relation to their proposed merger authorisation including appearing in the High Court taking that matter on appeal, and assisting Spark (formerly Telecom NZ) in relation to a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions, including of spectrum.
  • Acting for four major retail banks as shareholders in New Zealand's largest payment systems operator, Paymark, in respect of their participation in a mobile wallet initiative and other matters including the sale of that business to an EU-based payment systems operator; and advised in relation to NZCC approval which has now been granted.
  • Advising companies under investigation for anticompetitive market conduct, including misuse of market power, price fixing, and acquisitions of assets or shares without clearance, including advising in relation to a non-notified 2 to 1 merger of a horticulture auction platform business in respect of which no further action was taken.
  • Acting for Crystal in relation to the sale of its titanium dioxide business to Tronox, GSK in its three-part transaction with Novartis, including obtaining clearance for the consumer healthcare business acquisition; acting for Thermo Fisher Scientific in its acquisition of Life Technologies, including divestment of certain assets to GE; and other significant global pharma mergers.
  • Acting for Visy Board in proceedings brought for pecuniary penalties for cartel conduct, including jurisdictional protests in the High Court and Court of Appeal, and acting for parties to investigations, seeking leniency and/or defending proceedings for pecuniary penalties, in relation to gas-insulated switch gear, real estate, shipping, Libor and foreign exchange, amongst others. 
  • Successfully overturning in the Supreme Court the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal relating to the extra-territorial application of the Commerce Act.
  • Advising companies on joint ventures and other collaborative activities, including assisting the three free to air broadcasters in relation to their joint bid for the free to air rights for the Rugby World Cup 2011.
  • Advising on a wide range of consumer law issues, including unsubstantiated representations and consumer credit disclosure requirements as well as false and misleading advertising including health-related claims and drip pricing, and negotiating terms of a sportswear product recall on Fair Trading Act grounds with the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC).
  • Engagement with NZCC in relation to misstatements in insurance policies including negotiating a settlement in respect of charges laid by NZCC.
  • Urgent interlocutory relief to halt misleading competitive statements made to dairy farmers and other dairy regulation and competition law advice provided to a major dairy producer and commodity trading platform provider.
  • Advising a major financial services company in relation to NZCC investigations, including execution of a search warrant.
  • Assisting a major electricity generator in responding to market investigations by the Electricity Authority under the Electricity Industry Rules relating to Undesirable Trading Conduct and High Standard of Trading Conduct, and associated work by the Electricity Authority, none of which were taken further to the Hearings Panel by the Electricity Authority.


LLB (Hons), BA, University of Auckland.


Sarah began her career with Russell McVeagh and became a partner at the firm in 2006. Sarah was named the representative of large law firms on the New Zealand Law Society council in 2019, and she also currently serves as Co-Chair of Russell McVeagh's Diversity Committee. She has previously been Chair of Russell McVeagh's Partnership. 

Her experience includes working as a senior associate in another New Zealand law firm and working in the European Competition and Regulatory team at a magic circle firm in London.

Last year, Sarah presented on Plurality and Privacy at the annual RBB Economics Sydney conference and at the 29th annual workshop for the Competition Law and Policy Institute of NZ on 'Consumer Analytica: New Zealand Consumer Law Application to International Developments in Privacy and Use of Data'. Sarah also presented alongside Corporate Partner Ian Beaumont for a CPD session on Cartel allegations in capital raising underwrites – what can we learn from the ACCC's recent charges?

Additionally, Sarah presented to a number of different audiences in 2017 including to the Law and Economics Association of New Zealand on 'Lessons Learned from Sky-Vodafone', and participating in a panel on the topic of drip pricing at the Commerce Commission's 'Competition Matters' Conference, as well as on wider professional development topics, such as the ADLSi's "Finding Your Way" webinar

Sarah is the only New Zealander ranked as a Star Individual in Competition and Antitrust by Chambers and Partners Asia-Pacific 2021, making her one of the highest ranked competition lawyers in the country.

Additionally, Sarah is recognised by the Legal 500 as a leading lawyer in Competition Law. She was rated New Zealand Competition Lawyer of the Year by the International Law Office Client Choice Awards in both 2016 and 2018, and was also named the 2019 Global 100 'Competition and Regulatory Lawyer of the Year' in New Zealand. She was ranked as a market-leading lawyer in the 2019 Asialaw Profiles , a distinguished practitioner in Competition and Antitrust Law by AsiaLaw 2020 and also ranked in Expert Guides 2019. Sarah was voted by her peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers® 2022 in the field of Litigation and Competition and Consumer Law, and awarded 'Lawyer of the Year' for Competition and Consumer Law in 2020. Sarah is recognised as one of only two thought leaders for New Zealand in Who's Who Legal's Competition Thought Leaders 2020 publication.

She has previously presented to a group of competition law agencies in the IPF, in association with ASEAN, on the subject of Regulator Cooperation between the ACCC and NZCC, and in the American Bar Association 'World of Monopolies' series on 'The Basics of Abuse of Dominance in Australia, Canada and New Zealand in 2013.


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