Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for December 2nd, 2011

The Friday Slot (1) – Ian Forrester

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At Chillin’Competition, we have decide to emulate an unpopular practice of DG COMP. From now onwards, we will be launching Friday requests for informations (“RFIs”).

In line with the spirit of this blog, our RFIs will be a bit different from those of DG COMP. Our targets will be big names in the antitrust world who, in addition, are interesting people with a good sense of humor. Just like this blog, our questions will be partly professional and partly personal.

To start this new venture – in principle, the Friday slot will be opened twice a month – we have sent our first RFI to no other antitrust superstar than Mr. Ian Forrester (White and Case, full biography available at the end at this post)!

And guess what: Ian has accepted to address our questions very swiftly, and has provided remarkable, insightful, thought-provoking answers. Again, we are immensely grateful to Ian for the time he took to answers our questions. In exchange for his time, we offered him to baptise this new series of posts, and he offered the title “The Friday Slot” that appears on top of this post.

Question 1: “Oscar” of the best competition law book?  And of the best non-competition law book?

The shortest and simplest book is by David Edward and Bob Lane: “European Community Law: An Introduction”.  Competition law is not complex, though it can be made sophisticated.  Proper analysis of the realities of the marketplace is where everything should start.

The items of competition law literature which I most regularly use are the reviews of competition law in the Oxford Yearbook of European Law since the first volume in 1981. Francis Jacobs was the first editor and for about fifteen years Chris Norall and I squeezed the juice from every development. We tried to avoid accepting the official propaganda and to enjoy advancing our particular theories. Then the reviews went through a period of being too comprehensive and too lengthily thorough, but now we are back on a good rhythm. The reviews are lively and opinionated, and you can disagree with them, but they ought not to be boring. Writing them has been hugely instructive for my colleagues (jacquelyn Anthony , Makis and a platoon of other talents) and me, a great way of learning, digesting and explaining. I often use the OYEL review as a way of reminding myself of what was important in a case. Sometimes that matches conventional wisdom and sometimes it doesn’t.

Question 2: “Oscar” of the best case-law development in the past year? “Oscar” of the worst case-law development?

The Oscar to the best case-law development could go to the Swiss watch parts case, where the Court overturned a Commission refusal of a complaint and took us back to simpler times when small folk could look to the protection of the competition rules. It is very rare for such challenges to succeed and the Court did a really careful job in writing its judgement.

Question 3: Let’s do it like economists => assume that you could change 3 rules, principles, judgments, institutions in the current EU competition system. What would you do?

Criminal liability; proof beyond a reasonable doubt; and judicial review as ferocious as the House of Lords.

Question 4: Average working time/week?

Excessive!  I travel a lot, and when I am away the e-mails multiply, as do the messages from editors wanting manuscripts.  But I am not complaining.  It is fun to do interesting work in interesting places.

Question 5: Why do you work in competition law? How did you first get into it?

By accident.  I was a customs specialist, then made a complaint for a friend’s uncle against a whisky producer (differential pricing): Bulloch/Distillers Co. Ltd.  That was my first case in Luxembourg.  Lord Bethell was the next, about the rights of complainants.  Others followed.  I never studied competition law, or indeed EEC law, at university, an educational void which is unlikely to be remedied. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nicolas Petit

2 December 2011 at 1:22 pm

Posted in The Friday Slot