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Archive for November 16th, 2012

The Friday Slot (13) – Marc van der Woude

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For this new edition of the Friday slot, we are thrilled to publish our first interview with a member of the EU judicature, Mr. Marc van der Woude. On this blog, we hold Marc in great admiration. To us, he represents the ‘total’ competition lawyer. In his career, Marc has worked as a Commission official, as a member of the bar, as an academic and now as a Judge. In other words, Marc has seen the discipline from every possible angle. This gives him an unparalleled ability to ‘think’ competition issues with a rich and creative 360° perspective. I am sure most of you will notice this in reading his great interview. On top of this, Marc has made a very impressive appearance in the competition-Oscar winning movie, The Raid”. Marc’s career is a true source of inspiration for us. We are so so grateful to him that he accepted to answer to our questions.

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

My first experience of competition law was academic in nature. I was taught competition law for the first time by René Joliet at the College of Europe in 1983. The following year I worked as an assistant to Valentine Korah and Robert Kovar who remain brilliant academics approaching competition law in different ways. Valentine Korah tended to focus on the specific facts of the case whereas Robert Kovar had a broader approach focusing on the system as a whole. My first practical experience dates back to 1986 when I started to advise companies occasionally alongside my job as a lecturer of economic law at the University of Leiden. Ever since I joined DG COMP in 1987, competition law matters have been my daily bread and butter.

2. What do you like the most about your job?

I am very pleased at the General Court. The large majority of cases we have to deal with are extremely interesting and well presented. I also have the privilege to work on these cases with pleasant and competent colleagues. Exchanging ideas and arguments, agreeing and disagreeing, keep you sharp. In addition, it remains fascinating to see how people of 27 different nationalities and of various professional backgrounds work together in harmony.

3. What do you like the least about your job?

I have difficulties in finding negative aspects of my current job. However, there may be two things which I sometimes find irritating and inefficient: formalism and conservatism. Like many other lawyers, judges tend to have a disproportionate interest in form. Obviously, form is important, but the attention to form and detail should never distract from the substance of a case. Also, lawyers tend to be conservative and feel comforted by the existence of precedents. I am regularly confronted with arguments that do not have any other merit than referring to past practices or customs. This backward-looking mentality is not very helpful, if one wants to increase the Court’s productivity and the quality of its judgments.

4. Any favorite antitrust law books?  And favorite non-antitrust law books?

To be frank, even if I sometimes enjoy reading law books, I rarely read them for leisure. The book on “antitrust and the bounds of power” which Giuliano Amato wrote in the nineties is an exception. He describes in a very simple and concise manner the problem of balancing private and public power in a liberal democracy. This question is at the core of all competition law discussions. Public intervention has a societal cost, but the absence of such intervention as well. Where do you put the cursor for intervention?

It is hard to say what my favorite non-law book is. It depends on my mood. There are three books which now come to my mind. The first is “Het grijze kind” (The grey child) by Theo Thijssen, a Dutch prewar author. It is about childhood endurance: there is no reason to get upset by unpleasant things that will not last. The second book is “Belle du Seigneur” by Albert Cohen. It is about a passionate love story between the secretary general of the League of Nations and the wife of one of his subordinates. The early parts of the book are compulsory reading for all those who work in international institutions. The same holds true for Tony Judt’s “Postwar”. His book is not a compilation of “national histories”, but offers a comprehensive approach of the phases and trends in our common European history.

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Written by Nicolas Petit

16 November 2012 at 6:52 pm

Posted in The Friday Slot