Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

An algorithm for competition law conferences

with 3 comments

Last week was a very weird one. I spent almost as much time at competition law conferences than at the office.  Here is a brief account of how the week went and of the thoughts that this conference overdose triggered:

 As I have already mentioned on this blog, on Tuesday I participated at a workshop entitled What is happening to Article 101 TFEU?organized by Giorgio Monti at the European University Institute in Fiesole (as you know, Prof. Monti´s  idea to hold this workshop was “inspired” by some discussions on this blog). The presentations by Giorgio Monti, Saskia King, Eric Gippini and Luis Ortiz and the discussion we had were all extremely interesting. I was overwhelmed by how smart (an genuinely nice and funny) the group was both during the workshop and outside of it. We tried to make sense out of the object/effect dichotomy and talked at length about what really is a restriction of competition as well as about the “deaths” of restrictions by effect and of Article 101(3). It´s a pity that only a small group could attend.  On the plane back to Brussels, Eric, Luis and I mentioned that perhaps we could try to write a brief piece with our “non-mainstream” ideas some time soon. I´ll make sure that they don´t forget about it.

On Wednesday Charles River Associates (CRA) held its annual conference in Brussels. I attended most of the morning sessions and I have to say that the event was a great success. As excellent economists, these guys are conscious of the power of “FREE”. They deserve recognition for holding a free very high quality conference in Brussels.

Then on Thursday there was a lunch talk at the GCLC on the Menarini Judgment. I couldn´t attend, but all I hear is that the speakers were truly brilliant.

The reason I couldn´t attend the GCLC event is that at the same time I was speaking at yet another conference: the International Symposium on Competition Policy organized by the Centre for Parliamentary Studies. I was invited to this event following a recommendation from Nicolas (I really owe you one here, mate -please note the irony-). I was supposed to deliver the final keynote speech on “The future of EU Competition Policy“. I had prepared what I thought to be a fairly original and humorous prediction of what I think will certainly happen in the short term, of what should happen in the medium tem, and of what will inevitably happen in the long term. I´m not very sure that my messages will have the impact I´d hoped for: the audience was composed by two people from the Namibian competition authority, two members of the Malaysian competition Commission, a member of the Danish Ministry of Economic Affairs, a Scot from the Water Industry Commission, and my colleague Napoleón Ruiz who threatened me with taking pictures.   Jokes aside, it was fun.

So many hours of sitting at these and other recent events made one thoughts spring to mind: I wouldn´t need the expertise of my friends at CRA to come up with an ad hoc algorithm or formula with which to predict how interesting a competition law conference is supposed to be. The general rule (subject, of course, to exceptions) is easy: the likelihood of getting to listen to new and interesting stuff is inversely proportional to the combination of three cumulative variables: the price of the event, the number of attendees, and the number and lenght of slide decks. It´s generally not a good sign if an event is pricy and crowded. The ones with a greater chance of not being interesting at all are those for which you have to pay in order to be a spayeaker (yes, there are plenty of those!). (Not that so many people care anyway, since some of these events are mainly about networking, a.k.a “free” drinks and nibbles + some gossiping).

That´s why the 1st Chillin´Competition Conference should also be free. We only have to figure out minor details, such us how to pay for it..  Here are some options: Voluntary contributions? Sponsoring? A lottery for a date with Nicolas?

 Ideas welcome…

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

12 December 2011 at 3:00 pm

3 Responses

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  1. @Alfonso: That sounds like a good algorithm. Let me propose a good proxy variable: Florence. At the EUI, the room we were in is not quite the biggest room in the entire place, but unless they book you in the Church (where Van Rompuy spoke in October) or in the Theatre, the biggest rooms we’ve got seat about 50-60. It’s one of the many advantages of not having undergraduates.

    In other words, please come back any time.

    Martin Holterman

    12 December 2011 at 6:40 pm

  2. First of all, Alfonso, you are really lucky, as all conferences you attend have “truly brilliant” speakers. Either you are too over-enthuastic or I am not as much fortunate as you are :-).

    Kidding aside, my feeling is that there are TOO MANY conferences out there and it is becoming increasingly difficult to make sure you attend the useful ones. Sometimes the speakers are not good at all or they do not prepare properly to pass-on some of the knowledge. Make it simple guys, and give us some decent PowerPoints.

    As for the “Chilling” Conference, I think you should ask for payment of what is necessary to cover the costs and be transparent about it. If you receive more, then next year conference will be less expensive.

    Good luck!


    19 December 2011 at 12:05 am

    • Thanks, G. Actually I’ve attended some very uninteresting conferences an regularly listen to crappy speakers; however, I don’t comment about that on the blog because it would not be very elegant to trash individual people. instead, I prefer to mention only the people who give me a good impression.

      As yo you point on there being too many conferences, I couldn’t agree more.

      And thanks for the very reasonable suggestion!


      Alfonso Lamadrid

      19 December 2011 at 12:35 am

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