Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

The Friday Slot (6) – Jacques Bourgeois

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Prof. Jacques Bourgeois is on this week’s Friday Slot. A few words about Jacques are in order. I first met him as a student at the College of Europe. He was presenting his seminar during the “beauty context” shopping week, when students select their options. I was impressed, so impressed that I did not chose the seminar, for fear of not being up to the challenge. Jacques seemed a somewhat demanding Professor for the continental student I was, navigating with increasing ease in competition and trade law matters, requesting active student participation, and professing in beautiful English.

Our paths crossed again 8 years after, when I started as the executive secretary of the GCLC. We worked together for several years. In my short career I have had the immense chance to meet very many professionals. Yet, I have rarely seen a lawyer with a such mastery of social skills and management capabilities. Jacques is the kind of person who can turn a tense meeting with irritated attendees into a relaxed, and possibly funny, event. This is maybe why everyone in the business likes him, and why we at Chillin’Competition like him so much. Thanks to him for having taken the time to answer our questions. 

Oscar of the best competition law book? Non-competition book?

In the competition law field, I praise the book of David Gerber: Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe. Protecting Prometheus (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Out of the antitrust world, but still related to the legal field, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (Belknap, 1971) is a must.

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

In my opinion, the CJEU made a great job in Confédération européenne des associations d’horlogers-réparateurs (CEAHR) v European Commission (CJEU, 15 December 2010, Case T-427/08).

On the contrary, I am very critical towards the Alrosa ruling (CJEU, European Commission v Alrosa, Case C‑441/07 P).

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?

The one reform that I would organize in priority: that fines be decided upon by a court of law.

Average working time/week?

On a yearly average basis, I work 50 hrs/week.

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

My interest goes back to a teaching assignment at a US law school in 1976.  This interest was confirmed by the experience of heading the competition team of the European Commission Legal Service.

Most interesting, intense or funny moment of your career?

Most intense:  a filing to the European Commission under the first EC Merger Control regulation (remember: one week of the conclusion of the agreement) of a transaction between a US company and an Asian company, without advance warning and without pre-notification contacts.

My most interesting experience dates back to the time where I was acting as outside counsel for the European Commission.  The two issues raised by the Kali und Salz case where of utmost interest: Does the merger control regulation also apply to the creation of a collective dominance?  Is a failing company defense possible?

Your role model (if any) in the competition community?


What do you like the least about your job?

Extracting from reluctant clients and/or their staff data and facts needed for their defense.

What do you like the most about your job?

The intellectual challenge and, time and other factors permitting, the possibility of “going to the bottom”.

What do you like the most about economics in competition law?

The putting into question of the wisdom of legal “idées reçues”.

What you like the least about economics in competition law?

Its negative effects on legal certainty and predictability.

What career/personal achievement are you most proud of?

A kind of Festschrift which 3 very good friends offered as a birthday present with their essays and those of many other good friends. (Inge Govaere , Reinhard Quick and Marco BronckersTrade And Competition Law In The Eu And Beyond, Edward Elgar, 2011)

A piece of “counterfactual” analysis: what would you do if you weren’t in your current position?

I guess I would be advising, and teaching in, a developing country.

Besides being a “competition geek” (sorry for this one, but we all are), what are your hobbies?

I sponsor a regional music festival and a museum of contemporary art.

Other hobbies include reading and walking in the forest.

Favorite movies?

Here is my top three favourites: L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Alain Resnais), The Pianist (Roman Polanski) and Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael).

Favorite music style in general?

I am fond of Bach. I also love jazz music.

Your favorite motto?

When speaking to others, I like to recall them to “take it easy”.

Websites that you visit the most (besides Chillin’Competition)?

Various EU websites.

A piece of advice for junior competition professionals?

My best advice for the new generations would be to encourage them to grips thoroughly with the facts before forming any opinion.

Written by Nicolas Petit

2 March 2012 at 7:55 pm

Posted in The Friday Slot

One Response

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  1. I love Jacques’ humor, intellect and his youthful curiosity in everything… I am always amazed by his energy, and he is my role model. 🙂

    Sungjin Kang

    6 March 2012 at 9:01 am

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