Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for May 11th, 2012

The Friday Slot- Eric Gippini Fournier

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You all are familiar with leading cases in the EU competitition law canon such as  Michelin II, Pre-Insulated pipes, Métropole,  O2, Cementbow, IMS, Endesa, Aer Lingus (in the Ryanair merger case), Glaxo Smithkline, Lélos, Astra Zeneca, Wanadoo, Telia Sonera, KME, Teléfonica or Tomra.  A good question for one of our quizzes would have been to ask what it is that all of these cases have in commmon. The right answer would be that in every single one of them one of the Legal Service’s agents representing the European Commission in Court was Eric Gippini-Fournier.  

Today’s Friday Slot features an interview with him. Eric is one of my (I don’t use the default plural here because Nico and Eric have not yet properly met, although this will be fixed soon) favorite people in this small competition law world. After reading his answers to our questionnaire you will understand why. Above all, Eric is an incredibly nice, reasonable, gentle and frank guy. But he’s also a brilliant and intellectually honest jurist, a tough adversary, and -like Fernando Castillo de la Torre and other members of the Legal Service– he’s a living encyplopedia on competition law. Eric is not contaminated or constrained by some of the oddities that at times surround the profit-making side of this business, and this often gives his views an added interest. On top of all of the above, we also share a taste for late Sunday lunch at Roi du Poulet…  We are very thankful to him for having accepted our invitation to appear here.

Oscar” of the best antitrust law book? Non-antitrust book?

The best antitrust books are slow food, the result of a long process by one or two cooks, not more. Areeda/Turner, Bork’s “Paradox” and Waelbroek/Frignani are great examples. Among recent books, I would nominate Luis Ortiz Blanco’s “Market Power in EU competition Law”.

Non-antitrust books? “Belle du Seigneur” by Albert Cohen comes to mind.  Lately I have enjoyed Art Spiegelman’s “Maus“, and two great biographies, of Benjamin Franklin and of Franklin D. Roosevelt (both by Henry Brands).

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

My nominations in the first category will not necessarily please the blog hosts. They go to the ECtHR (Menarini Diagnostics), the ECJ (TeliaSonera, KME Germany and Tomra), and the EFTA Court (Posten Norge). On the “bad” side, I have misgivings –but only that, misgivings– about the hands-off approach to reverse payments, most recently by the court of appeals for the 11th circuit in Watson Pharmaceuticals.

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

I am not fond of the law on exploitative abuses, in particular excessive pricing. In fact I am not sure that prosecuting excessive pricing –essentially a consumer protection issue– fits with the overall design of EU antitrust, with its focus on protecting the competitive process.

I would revamp evidence rules before the EU courts, for example re-introduce the old ECSC rule that, in case of appeal against a Commission decision, the entire case file is automatically transmitted to the General Court. Right now the court file includes only evidence provided by the parties, which gives an incomplete view of a case.

Average working time/week?

Probably too much. I don’t count the hours but it should be possible to do the math. At any given time I have 40 or 50 cases pending before the EU courts and in a typical year I present oral argument in eight to twelve hearings, sometimes more. I should say that litigation is less than half of my workload.

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

My home university inSpain has a tradition in IP and competition law. By law school graduation, the Merger Regulation had just been adopted, and it was the subject of my thesis. I then studied EU and U.S. antitrust at Bruges and Berkeley, with Robert Kovar and Einer Elhauge. These great teachers, and others like Val Korah and Louis Vogel inspired me. I also did some basic microeconomics coursework at LSE when I was a teaching assistant in Bruges and we were about to introduce a microeconomics course for lawyers.

All this was twenty years ago. What keeps me interested is that each antitrust case requires me to study and understand a different technical and economic reality: how Tetra Paks or CPUs are made, the intricacies of copyright management societies or the details of pharmaceutical pricing in Spain.

Most interesting, intense or funny moment of your career?

Around 1998 I had a hectic, but very interesting time with sports-related antitrust issues like FIA/Formula One and the FIFA player transfer regulations. I have had intense hearings over the years, including GlaxoSmithKline, Telefónica, and many others.

Funny moments came especially in non-antitrust cases. In a case involving regulatory obstacles to selling nutritional supplements, we arranged to meet with the complainant’s board of directors. Four huge bodybuilders showed up, each 150 Kg of muscle and built like trucks! We immediately agreed with everything they said and promised swift action.

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

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Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

11 May 2012 at 6:08 pm