Archive for the ‘Our Publications’ Category
As some of you may remember, a few months ago I wrote a post here on “Antitrust and Political Stupidity“. Competition Policy International asked me to develop the post for a special issue of the Antitrust Chronicle, which I did one-handedly during my extended Christmas break (the paper is available here). I was then asked to do a follow-up interview with CPI; the interview was published today (click here for the version in CPI’s web).
Asked about whether I was being too optmistic in the paper, I started my response saying that “my paper was written during the Christmas break, and it is not much more than a Christmas tale, a superficial exercise of wishful thinking” (see below for the complete answer). Little did I know that the mailing that was sent today to some thousands of people would summarize the interview saying that: “Lamadrid says his paper is ‘a superficial exercise of wishful thinking,’ and he tells CPI why“. So, here I am, promoting my work by saying that it’s really not any good (between us: it’s not a masterpice, but it’s somehow original and maybe not as crappy as my own quote suggests…). Man do I really need to work on my self-selling skills….
If anyone’s interested, you can click here to read the full interview:
Many of you have probably had a chance to read various texts on the goals of competition law (the one in Giorgio Monti’s book is particularly good; more recently, I also liked Kevin Coates’ approach).
For an original approach to this discussion, check out Maurice Stucke’s recent paper “Should Competition Policy Promote Happiness?” As noted in the abstract, the paper builds on recent academic literature on happiness and goes on to argue that “competition policy in a post-industrial wealthy country would get more bang (in terms of increased well-being) in promoting economic, social and democratic values, rather than simply promoting a narrowly-defined consumer welfare objective“,
Many thanks to Wouter Wils for the pointer!
P.S. And speaking of papers, Pablo Ibañez, Hans Zenger and myself could use some additional votes for Concurrence’s Antitrust Writing Awards
Last Friday I was invited to speak on these issues at a GCLC lunch talk on “
I might develop the content of my presentation in a series of forthcoming posts, but today we’ll simply provide you with the presentations projected at the lunch talk.
I had the impression that the audience was a bit surprised at my rather unusual power point, which you can see here:
GCLC_Google_Lamadrid (looks better if you play the slide show; also, it’s password protected, so click “read-only”).
As I explained at the event, I decided to run the risk of projecting this ppp when I learnt that Google had pledged before the FTC not to ask for injunctions aimed at protecting its intellectual property Actually, I’m much more scared of my firm’s format-strict marketing department….
P.S. A necessary and fair disclosure. The power point I had in mind became real thanks to Enrique Colmenero, a terribly nice and smart guy, a techie and an entrepeneur who is now fortunately working with me on a few tech-related cases.
(Since this post is about awards, we thought a pic form last night’s grammys ceremony would be appropriate. I randomly came accross this one, but it risked being inappropriate, so we’ve decided to go for a more politically correct one).
This year the Editorial Committee at Concurrences has shortlisted 3 pieces written by people who have contributed to this blog, so we thought we’d ask you to please take a minute to give them your 5-star vote
The nominees are:
- On the category for Academic paper on Anticompetitive Practices: Pablo Ibañez Colomo (LSE), for Market Failures, Transaction Costs and Article 101(1) TFEU Case Law, You can read it and vote for it at: http://awards.concurrences.com/academic-articles-awards/article/market-failures-transaction-costs By the way, Pablo gave a lecture on this topic at the IEB in Madrid a few days ago; the slides are available here: Making sense of Article 101 TFEU
- On the category for Academic papers on Economics: Hans Zenger (CRA) for Loyalty Rebates and the Competitive Process : You can read it and vote for it at: http://awards.concurrences.com/academic-articles-awards/article/loyalty-rebates-and-the
- On the category for Business papers on Economics, myself, for Economics in competition law, You can read it and vote for it at (no need to read this one, you can skip it provided that you vote for it): http://awards.concurrences.com/business-articles-awards/article/economics-in-competition-law (actually, the nominated post does not rank among the ones I’m proudest of, but I’m nevertheless grateful for the nomination).
- We are told that Chillin’Competition has also been shortlisted as one of the top 30 professional publications that will be reviewed by Concurrence’s editorial board, which will then come up with a ranking (for more info, click here). You cannot vote for us here, but we’d be thankful if you could please exert any sort of coercion on the jury
A few weeks ago I published a post called “Antitrust and political imbecility“. The raw ideas in it had been in my mind for a while, but conscious that I would likely not take the time to refine them, I chose to publish them on this blog with the hope that they would benefit from public discussion. I wasn’t particularly proud of this post, but Lindsay Mcsweeney (Competition Policy International) thought it was original and asked me to develop it for a special issue of CPI’s Antitrust Chronicle to be published right after Christmas. I accepted thinking that it would only take a few hours of my holidays; little did I know that I would break my arm and go through some pains to finish it! (btw, I’m back on track as of today). In any event, and thanks to Lindays’s
pressure encouragement, it’s done.
Those interested in reading my take on why antitrust law can be regarded as sensible centrist economic policy can do so here. Non-CPI suscribers can read it here (courtersy of CPI): Antitrust and the political center-
Any critical feedback would be most welcome!
Competition law blogs are mushrooming. This means that Chillin’Competition is now subject to intense competitive pressure, and that Lindsey McSweeny will start having problems to pick the monthly posts for CPI’s Blogs o’ Blogs.
Some of you might remember that when Nico falsely announced that we were done with Chillin’Competition a new blog called Chilled Competition was rapidly created. Its first (and only) post was entitled “Low barriers to entry”. And it was very right: ayone can enter this market; in fact, as you will see below there are already a few entrants challenging incumbents.
- Kartellblog. We have the intuition that it’s a great blog. Unfortunately we cannot confirm it because neither of us can read German…
- Prof. Sokol’s blog: The best source of information for new antitrust-related publications. We don’t know how he does it, but he finds out about almost anything that is published.
- The Antitrust Hotch Potch. As you know, prior to starting Chillin’Competition Nicolas used to run the Antitrust Hotch Potch with Damien Geradin. Damien kept the blog and the trademark and has since then re-started it (about 3-4 times in the past few months) Damien has an admirable ability to surround himself with smart people (like Nico back in the day) and this time he has been joined by young Covington associates, namely John Wileur, Christos Malamataris and Jennifer Boudet. It’s a great initiative, so good luck! We will be happy to generate some debate with them (a piece of humble advice: in our experience it’s important to identify the person writing each post!).
- Kluwer Competition Law Blog. This one features very good stuff. It currently has more than 20 co-authors (including people who we know well and like, such as Thomas, Damien, José, Gavin…. ). In spite of the different styles it generally features very interesting stuff. The only thing we miss is more regular updates.
- Competition Bulletin. Written by 10 authors (Blackstone Chambers barristers + Oke Odudu) this blog features very interesting stuff, notably on UK competition law. I should have mentioned them here before (my apologies for the delay).
- Truthonthemarket. It not only covers antitrust issues, but also wider economic or IP-related issues. Its posts are always timely and insightful.
- Derechomercantilespana. Written by Jesús Alfaro, who does an amazing job covering all sorts of corporate and competition related development several times a day. How he gets the time is beyond me. The content ranges from a Judgment by a lower Court in a tiny village in Spain, to comments on EU to good music Non-spanish speakers won’t be able to enjoy it though.
- There are also a handful of blogs covering jurisdictions other than the US and the EU. Harün Gündüz once asked us to help advertise TurkishCompetitiionBulletin (well done!). Lalibrecompetencia is an excellent source of info on Latin American issues.
- Chillin’Competition: Written by two freak weirdows. One is a University Professor who spends his life in a car and likes to have his pic on his browser’s address bar. The other is a lawyer who somehow tricked his firm into letting him spread nonsense in the public domain. We frankly would not recommend you to ever read it. For each decent post they write there are dozens of nonsensical ones.
On 21 November Concurrences, A&O and MAPP will be holding a worskshop on “Standard of Proof for Economic Evidence” (registration is free and still possible through this website).
The topic is very interesting. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to attend, so I’ll make a point in public here (or rathe repeat what I co-wrote on a piece published here) in relation only to the assessment of economic evidence in judicial proceedings. To me, it’s more appropriate to refer to “economic argument” than to “economic evidence”. Unless the expert is appointed by the Court (off the top of my head I can only remember this being done in Woodpulp) or comes from the Commission (which
has the winning hand enjoys a margin of discretion in this regard), I do not see many differences between legal and economic argument put forward by the parties in competition proceedings, and no one would call lawyers´ pleadings “legal expert opinions”.
Certainly, in some cases there will be a hardcore of economic data which is not contested by opponents (be it the Commission, the parties, or complainants), but a great part of the “evidence” will be opinion and based on each one’s assumptions, not strictly evidential. An expert presenting evidence is supposed to act as a translator for the judge on areas on which the latter lacks the appropriate training. However, in real life, expert economic evidence has a “strong tendency” to favor the argumentation of one particular party, and is often contradictory with that presented by other parties.
In the end, economic evidence offered by the parties will be assessed by the European Commission and EU Courts as a friendly (former CFI Judge Huber Legal would call it “sisterly”) statement commanded by the interested party with a view to making its case more palatable to the deciding authority or court. Its value will depend on how persuasive the economist in question can be, just like lawyers and their plaidoiries. In the words of Hubert Legal at the 2006 Fordham conference “[T]he way we proceed is compatible with our Rules of Procedure because [economists] are not pleading under oath; it is only a part of the pleading, like you would have the possibility to ask a member of the board of a company to speak, or your sister or whoever is interested in the case”.
We have discussed about hotels in previous posts (notably when I
shamelessly unconsciously advertise my parents’ hotel (pictured above); you see? it just happened again!) (btw, top floor third window from the left is the room where I grew up). A couple of months ago I published a short piece on Competition law in the hotel sector in the industry’s magazine in Spain in which I highlighted (in, let’s admit it, a rather simple way), some of the interesting competition law issues that may arise in this sector; here are a couple:
OFT’s investigation on price-match guarantees
I’m following with interest the OFT’s investigation on price-match guarantees in the hotel sector (again, out of personal
geeky interest, nothing professional). As you may know, in July the OFT addressed a statement of objections to Expedia, Booking and InterContinental Hotels challenging agreements that are said to restrict online travel agency’s ability to discount the price of room-only accomodation. The OFT considers that “the alleged infringements (…) could limit price competition between online travel agents and increase barriers to entry and expansion for online travel agents that may seek to gain market share by offering discounts to consumers“. It notes that it ”limited the scope of its investigation to a small number of major companies, with a view to achieving a swift and effective outcome. However, the investigation is likely to have wider implications as the alleged practices are potentially widespread in the industry“.
Keep an eye open, because this is a case which may contribute to altering how we think about agency agreements and price matching guarantees. In the meanwhile, the OFT has published a most interesting report on “price match” or “lowest price” guarantees that makes a good read
(that is, if you really have nothing else to do..).
A candidate to the worst antitrust development prize
In April 2011 we wrote a post announcing that there was an ongoing investigation that could yield a strong candidate for the Worst Antitrust Development Prize. Last week our forecast materialized. The Spanish competition authority (CNC) imposed a 150,000 euro fine on the Confederation of Spanish Industries, and an individual fine of 50,000 euro fine on the President of its Tourism Committee, a well known Spanish and former President of F.C. Barcelona (for full disclosure, my firm has no interest in this case, but I do know the person who was sanctioned).
The sanctions have been imposed because this person told the press at an industry fair that he thought there was a margin for hotels in certain cities of Spain to increase rates. No more. Admittedly, the fact that this personal opinion was accompanied by an inconvenient joke -”if there’d be someone from the competition agency here I’d be sanctioned“- may not have helped much… Later on, he was asked by a newspaper whether hotel rates would increase in the course of 2011. He responsed that rates had gone down 20% since 2007 and that a 6-7% increase could be reasonable, but that different hotel owners had different views.
If you ask me, such a statement can very hardly have led to any sort of collusion. There are thousands of hotels in Spain and hundreds of relevant markets evolving under different conditions, so this had nothing to do with setting a focal point to facilitate tacit collusion. Nonetheless, just as I feared on my previous post, the CNC decided to resort to competition authority’s favorite shortcut: the “object label”:
According to the CNC’s decision, one only needs to verify the content, author and diffusion of the statement. It explains that “it is not necessary to examine additional factors, such as the context in which the conduct takes place, the intention, the degree of furtherance, or the relevant market”. This paragraph alone makes this decision a good candidate to the “worst antitrust development prize”.
And, but the way, this “collective recommendation” was until now unknown to most hotels in Spain. The CNC has just ensured that everyone hears about it thus multiplying any potential effects. Now, in light of its new practice of sanctioning public authorities contributing to private breaches of the competition rules: should the CNC sanction itself for having acted as the loudspeaker and propagator for this alleged invitation to collude?
Competition seems to be moving moving to the blog arena.
Some of you may recall that a while ago we discussed the case of a Spanish professor who had been sued for accusing a Promusicae of anticompetitive behavior (see here). We are glad to report that the blogger has won the case, thereby establishing a good precedent to shield Nico and myself from possible similar attacks
Another interesting blog-related development has taken in the U.S. In the context of a high-profile patent infringement case between Google and Oracle, district court judge Alsup has ordered these companies to diclose the identity of bloggers, journalists and consultants that they pay for favorable opinions or consultancy work (for more, see here or here).
This decision has been triggered by the revelation that Florian Müller a well-known IP blogger (from the blog FOSS Patents) had been hired by Oracle shortly after the trial begun.
This unprecedented move should cast light upon the problem related to the lack of transparency surrounding blog content. As the influence of certain blogs grows, it is necessary to start thinking whether the ethical rules governing traditional journalism should also apply in this area. It has certainly led Nicolas and myself to reflect on the way we want to do things.
In our case, we don’t pretend to be impartial informers. We are simply two young professionals who voice out subjective opinions in public to entertain and/or to spur some hopefully interesting debates. We see Chillin’Competition more like a diary than like a newspaper story or an academic paper, and therefore don’t feel under the pressure of being always perfectly informed, accurate, exhaustive and objective about what we write. Of course we try to do our best and to be as technically rigurous as possible, but we’re not afraid of posting first thoughts on some topics, even if our views may evolve afterwards (remember our disclaimer?)
The small dimension of the competition law community makes it practically unfeasible to continuously disclose personal links. We often know quite well, or are friends with, in-house counsel, external counsel, Commission officials, clerks or Judges involved in all sides of the cases on which we comment here. Disclosing friendship or other informal ties with the people involved in the cases on which we comment would be tremendously burdensome (and it would look a bit weird too…). As said above, we don’t pretend to be always objective. In fact, we generally try to be subjective, but we develop our reasons and we expose them to public criticism. For the time being, our policy is to indicate only the cases in which we are personally involved. Also, where we have written about a case and have later become involved in it, we have also publicly stated it. However, we are, as always, open to comments and suggestions on how to better do what we do.
Blogging law is getting increasingly complicated. Nico: we need a lawyer.
In the article that
kept me working during my otherwise summer holidays last year Luis Ortiz Blanco and myself wrote for the Fordham Conference held last September [the final version is published here; a draft version is available for free here] we quoted one of our “Friday Slotters”, Ian Forrester, (actually, he was the one who proposed “The Friday Slot” as a name for the section) saying that competition fines imposed by the Commission “exceed fines imposed by the public authority in any democracy of which I am aware for any offence“.
Some evolution is apparently taking place in this regard. Look, for instance, at the $3 billion fine that GlaxoSmithkline has agreed to pay for promoting its best-selling antidepressants for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data. Take a look also at this very interesting graph, which points out at the largest corporate fines and settlements in the past seven years, and also presents the fine as a percentage of the yearly income of the sanctioned companies.
During a Paris-Brussels train trip last night I read an interesting piece on The Economist that deals precisely with the recent increment in corporate fines using international cartel fines (which reportedly ”rose by a factor of one thousand between the 1990s and 2000s”) as the main example.
The Economist‘s piece draws on economic research to justify the conclusion that “to deter bad behavior fines need to rise”.
You may recall that our guest Benoît Durand dealt with this same issue some posts ago and came to a contrary conclusion: that deterrence would be better served by envisaging individual sanctions (fines, disqualification and/or prison penalties) for the executives directly involved in cartel meetings. We haven´t really thought this through, but we’re not big fans of prison penalties, nor would we favor the imposition of disproportionate individual fines. A well designed disqualification sanction, however, would appear to us as a reasonable measure. Any views?