Melanie Aitken is the Managing Principal of Bennett Jones (US) LLP, which carries on the practice of Canadian law in Washington, DC, in association with Bennett Jones LLP. She is also co-chair of the competition and foreign investment practice of Bennett Jones. She specializes in global antitrust and competition law and litigation, working closely with colleagues in our Toronto and other offices.
Melanie served as Canada’s Competition Commissioner, in charge of the Canadian Competition Bureau from 2009 to 2012, having previously served in the Bureau as the Senior Deputy Commissioner leading merger review from 2006 to 2009.
While serving as Commissioner, Melanie led many high-profile civil and criminal matters and worked extensively with leaders of international antitrust authorities around the world on enforcement and policy cases, holding leadership roles in key international organizations, such as the Steering Committee of the International Competition Network. Melanie is credited with revitalizing the Bureau as an active enforcement agency. Most notably, she led the introduction of major amendments to Canada’s competition laws, introducing a US-style second request merger review process in Canada, and a new per se criminal cartel offence. While establishing an unprecedented successful litigation record for the Bureau, Melanie initiated a landmark case that liberalized the Canadian real estate industry by removing rules that prohibited unbundled services, brought cases forward in significant matters (including a challenge to Visa and MasterCard over card acceptance rules, and challenging a merger to monopoly on a major airline merger); during her tenure, the Bureau won the first court-ordered merger prohibition since the 1990s.
Melanie was a partner at Bennett Jones and another major Canadian firm before joining the Bureau in 2005. She has acted as counsel in the Supreme Court of Canada and, prior to the Bureau, had an active trial and appellate antitrust and commercial practice, representing major Canadian and US companies in significant matters, including as counsel for the merging parties in Superior Propane, Canada’s leading merger efficiencies case.
Melanie is a frequent speaker and commentator on competition issues, and has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall and Queen's Law Schools. She is active in the ABA Antitrust Section leadership, and sits on the Advisory Boards of the Global Antitrust Institute, the Board of the Canadian American Business Council and Schulich School of Business (Toronto, Canada). Melanie also serves as a non-governmental advisor to the International Competition Network, a network of the world's competition authorities fostering convergence to best practices in global antitrust enforcement.
Melanie has represented clients and has experience in a broad range of industries, including financial services, large retail, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, airlines, oil and gas, consumer products and organized sport.
Melanie's recent experience includes: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. in connection with its $12.2 billion acquisition by Marriott International, Inc.; Canadian Pacific Railway Limited in connection with its proposed US$28 billion merger with Norfolk Southern Corp.; Repsol S.A., in connection with the $15.1 billion acquisition of Talisman Energy Inc.; Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited and Hutchison Whampoa Limited, in connection with a $84 billion (implied enterprise value) reorganization and combination of their respective businesses in two new Hong Kong-listed companies, CK Hutchison Holdings Limited and Cheung Kong Property Holdings Limited; Norbord Inc., in connection with its merger with Ainsworth Lumber Co. Ltd., a transaction valued at $763 million; counsel to Safeway Inc., in connection with the $5.8 billion sale of substantially all of its Canadian assets to Sobeys Inc.