Archive for the ‘Jokes’ Category
On December 17 Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly stated that there could be an appearance of “conflict of interest” on the fact that the European Commission had taken too long to open a State aid investigation affecting, among others, Athletic de Bilbao, the team apparently supported by Vice-President Almunia.
No kidding, look:
“The Commission has failed to act on this complaint for more than four years. Not only is this bad administration, but to the European public it can look like a conflict of interest given the Commissioner’s strong links to one of the football clubs in question. In my inquiry, I have not looked into the merits of the allegations concerning the breach of State Aid rules. I trust, however, that the Commission will decide to open an investigation tomorrow in order to investigate the facts and dispel any suspicions.” (see here)
The day following this a bit
absurd unusual reproach, the Commission did open an investigation which, by the way, had the effect of suddenly and exponentially multiplying the number of State aid experts in my home-country.
And last week we learnt –thanks to Lewis Crofts and MLex- that the Commissioner –who by now must be, understandably, fed up of being spied upon and even of having Spanish press report on personal matters- immediately responded to Ms. O’Reilly, explaining that:
“I am also a Spanish citizen, a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, a keen opera-goer, I enjoy cinema and I use the Internet every day (…). These elements are however irrelevant when it comes to the commission adopting decisions on State aid regarding Spanish cases, or granted by center-left governments, or benefiting cinema or culture in general, or to tackling antitrust issues with Microsoft and Google”.
It is certainly quite unusual in the EU context to point out at “apparent biases” in the way Ms. O’Reilly did, and it makes it more striking that the bias in this case consisted in supporting a given football club.
For instance, we’d absolutely never dare to suggest or imply that it may be relevant to the investigation that Ms. O’Relly is Irish and that Irish football teams haven’t fared well against Spanish teams (with the last Irish defeat occurring in the course of the procedure before the Ombudswoman’s office!)
By the way, an “interesting” fact for competition geeks: Ms. O Reilly previously worked at Magill and RTE, two of the parties to the well-known Magill case.
P.S. For the record, we predicted this State aid to football clubs mess almost 4 years ago (see here).
When did the new Belgian competition Act enter into force?
If you run a Google search most results (notably a few dozen law firm’s newsletters saying exactly the same things) will tell you that it did on September 1st, 2013.
You can’t blame them, though. On August 30th The Belgian official journal (Moniteur Belge) published a Royal decree providing that the new Act would enter into force on the first working day following the said publication (that is, on September 1st).
However, it seems that the Royal decree wasn’t really Royal, because no one realized that the King had not yet signed it (apparently he was on holidays
, elephant hunting, or doing whatever it is that Belgian Kings do), and that therefore it was devoid of legal effects.
That’s why on September 4th a new Royal decree was published on the official journal stating that the publication of the previous Royal decree (actually there were two of them) shall be considered null and void (“il y a lieu de considérer la publication des deux arrêtés royaux susmentionnés comme nulle et non avenue. Ces arrêtés ont été retirés avant leur signature”).
And then, on September 6th, yet another Royal decree was published providing that the Act would enter into force on that very same day.
So, between September 1st and September 4th people thought that the Act had entered into force, when in reality that wasn’t the case.
We hear there were hearings held in those days in which lawyers were pleading on the basis of the new Act, but were told that they were misinformed.
There appears to be a summer campaign orchestrated by European media against EU officials.
First it was the Belgian press reporting that DG Comp had been tricked by an Aprils Fools Day hoax (see our Monday post on this story).
Today we have received a a shocking piece of investigative journalism published in The Telegraph (actually, we have realized that it was published more than 2 years ago, but hey, don’t let facts ruin a good story!) informing that EU officials crowd “love hotels” in their lunch breaks. According to the article, 80% of the clients of at least one of such establishments were “Eurocrats” committing adultery.
P.S. You might legitimately observe that this is not very much related to competition law. In my defense: it’s summer time, it’s unusually sunny in Brussels and I want to leave the office soon, so rather than writing a brainy post I’ve opted for a ”quicky” (just like EU officials usually do, according to The Telegraph’s piece….)
It’s July; the weather is good even in Brussels; you should be either on holidays, enjoying outdoors, or finishing off work in order to be able to go out and to do some photosynthesis; but nevertheless you’re reading a competition law blog… (yes, writing it is even worse, but we aren’t talking about us now…).
So, there is cogent, consistent and sufficient evidence to indicate that you’re a bit of a geek. If that’s the case, these are 3 recommendations of short reads, all of which deal with issues on which we’ve touched in the past:
- Wouter Wils, Ten Years of Regulation 1/2003, A retrospective- A very good and concise overview of the history and results of the procedural modernization of EU competition law (my only negative comment is that, for some unknown reason, it doesn’t cite my
masterpiece, excellent, quite good, good, decent? more or less tolerable paper on the issue…)
- Thomas Graf – who together with Maurits Dolmans (click here for his Friday Slot interview) is the main lawyer for Google in the framework of the Commission’s investigation- has written a blog post about Google’s proposed commitments., available here. It’s always interesting to know the impressions of those with first hand knowledge of cases. My own post on this subject is referred to as a one among three “thoughtful comments”; not sure if that is because my post was any good or because we actually have similar views on the main issues…
- Also on Google, last week I received a piece published in the Financial Times positing that “true progressivists” would seek Google’s break up.
Actually, this was of quite some interest to me, since (as frequent skimmers may remember) I’ve devoted a few posts to what “true progressivism’ or “radical centrism”should mean to the antitrust world: see here (for the original post), here (for the short article developing the post), and here (for an interview in which I’m quoted saying that both the post and the article are superficial exercises of wishful thinking -I’ve original marketing techniques, you see..-).
Not being a fan of labels, I would have more or less defined myself as a radical centrist, and nevertheless I fail to see the reasons for Google’s breakup; query: does that make me a bad centrist?! The author of this interesting piece is Prof. Richard Sennet, a LSE professor. Since I didn’t recognize the name I ”Googled” it and saw that he’s professor and expert in urban sociology.
Now, this is a worrying development for most competition lawyers. First it was economists who (quite successfully) started to
eat “our cake” become antitrust experts, and now it’s urban sociologists!! I guess it’s time to retaliate and send the FT my expert piece on the effects or rural migration in postmodern Spain..
A few days ago Nico wrote a post about “Commission bashing” in which he acknowledged that, in reality, he’s not a Commission basher but rather appreciates the good things that Comp does [the fact that one of the three examples given -next to the Guidance Paper and the effects-based approach..- was Post Danmark -a Court Judgment- reveals that Nico struggled to find good deeds on the Commission's part :)]
Until now, the most vocal Commission basher I knew of was Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO (check out his CV and the accompanying Commission disclaimer here.) We’ve previously referred to his comparison of Comp officials with Kim Il-Jung (sic) and with North Korean economists, but you may not have watched his equally… outspoken intervention at the EU Innovation Convention in 2011 (worth checking it out here)
But Mr. O’Leary now faces fierce competition. A blog called Venitism appears to overpass Ryanair’s chief’s tone; it has just published a post mildly titled: The stupid European Commission harassess the chip industry. Actually, the title is much softer than its content and than its pics. It’s so overdone that it’s worth taking a cursory look if you’ve a minute.
Aside from insulting the Commission, the post states that its authors have conducted a survey that reveals that 80% of economists would favor the abolition of antitrust rules. I’m told by my economist friends that this cannot be true, for, they say ”the literature makes it clear that antitrust law promotes our welfare”
Today the European Commission imposed a 561 million euros fine on Microsoft (roughly 37 euros per each of the 15 million copies of Windows that were sold in the EU in breach of the 2009 commitment).
As I said in a previous post, I don’t think anyone believes that Microsoft did this on purpose, so the amount of the fine might have come as a surprise to quite a few people (although not to those who participated in Nico’s poll yesterday).
In any case, this is the third time that Microsoft contributes to the EU Budget because of competition related matters. In total, it has paid approximately 2 billion euros.
[Btw, I couldn't help remembering Neelie Kroes statement after fining Intel 1 billion euros: “Intel´s latest advertising campaign proposes Intel as the sponsors of tomorrow; well, now they are the sponsors of the European tax payer” (two years ago we nominated the video of this speech to an Antitrust Oscar)].
When one hears about these figures it’s easy not to realize what numbers mean. So we’ve decided to help you become aware of what 2 billion represent:
According to the World Bank there are 41 countries in the world whose GDP is lower than 2.1 billion euros (approx 2.7 billion dollars).
With 2 billion euros the European Union could:
- Bail out banks in Cyprus (estimates say that it will cost up to 2 billion);
- Pay for a couple of ambitious science projects (like studying graphene and fighting brain disease);
- Buy the full squads of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or Manchester United to represent DG Comp in the internal football championship;
- Buy half of an aircraft carrier (don’t know why they would want an aircraft carrier, or why they would only want half, but I’ve seen more absurd public spending…);
- Pay DG Comp’s budget (93,5 million euros) for 21 years;
- Develop the atomic bomb (not in today’s money, though; it cost 2 billion back in 1945).
- Buy a few Greek islands for its officials to go on holidays (the most expensive one I’ve seen here costs 150 million..). Odd thing, I saw an ad for Bahamas islands on sale, and there is a private islands magazine with a Fall/Winter catalog for islands (!)
- Produce all of the 10 most expensive films in history (Pirate’s of the Caribbean, Tangled, Spider-Man 3, John Carter, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Avatar, The Dark Knight Rises, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Avengers).
- Build the tallest building in the world to host DG Comp (it would be more impressive than the Madou Tower to which it is moving…the Burj Khalifa costed 1.5 billion). For my suggestion on how it could look like, see here