Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

The Friday Slot (14) – Wouter Wils

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This new edition of the Friday slot hosts Mr. Regulation 1/2003 Wouter Wils, Hearing Officer at the European Commission. What impresses me the most about Wouter is his unparalleled ability to work as a full-time Commission official, meanwhile maintaining a cutting-edge academic production. When I mean cutting-edge, what I have in mind is his track record of well-documented, solid and sophisticated papers, in the spirit of US antitrust scholarship.  Interestingly, another reason why I hold Wouter in great admiration  is because he dares occasionally to depart from the Commission’s official party line. Finally, Wouter is one of those few lawyers who can comfortably navigate the troubled waters of competition economics. His latest piece on compliance programmes is an absolute must read.

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

Best competition law book  Anne-Lise Sibony’sLe juge et le raisonnement économique en droit de la concurrence.

Best non-competition-law book  Marcel Proust‘s A la recherche du temps perdu.

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

As human nature does not change, and our generation is not smarter than previous generations, there is no reason why the law should constantly be changing. Each generation rediscovers and reapplies the same basic principles.

I particularly like the opinions of Advocate-General Kokott, which explain very clearly the basic principles, for instance most recently in C-440/11 P Portielje and Gosselin.

3. Average working time/week?

I don’t count.

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

Accidentally. When I arrived in the Commission’s Legal Service in 1994, I was put in the Competition team, because they needed a Dutch-speaker, and maybe also because of my dual education as economist and lawyer. If I had been asked what I wanted to do, I would have answered environmental law, because in my previous job as référendaire at the Court of Justice I had worked on very interesting cases under the Birds Directive.

5. Most interesting, intense or funny moment of your career?

The most interesting thing I did was being part of the ‘groupe de modernisation‘ ( – we still worked in French at that time – ), led by Gianfranco Rocca, which between 1997 and 2000 conceived and wrote the White Paper and the Commission’s legislative proposal for what became Regulation 1/2003.

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

Giuliano Marenco, who headed the Competition team in the Legal Service when I worked there

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

Aggressive lawyers.

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

Smart lawyers.

9. What you like the most about economics in competition law?

Smart economists.

10. What you like the least about economics in competition law?

Economists who are ignorant of the law.

11. What career/personal achievement are you most proud of?

See question 5 above.

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

I would still be in the Social affairs team in the Commission’s Legal Service, as I was three years ago.

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

I am probably more a law enforcement geek than a competition geek. Other addictions are opera (live – I don’t care that much for recordings) and the New York and London Reviews of Books.

14. Favorite movies?

Visconti‘s Il Gattopardo – but Lampedusa’s novel is even better – I generally prefer going to the opera or reading novels over seeing movies.

15. Favorite music style in general?

Classical, from Tomas Luis de Victoria to Richard Strauss.

16. Your favorite motto?


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

Daniel Sokol’s Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog, SSRN, and KMI weather forecast.

18. A piece of advice for junior competition professionals?

There are many other interesting areas of law (and professional opportunities outside law), so you should only work in competition law if you really enjoy it.

Written by Nicolas Petit

21 December 2012 at 9:28 pm

Posted in The Friday Slot

One Response

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  1. […] of you have been asking for the document used by Wouter Wils yesterday during his presentation at the Chillin’Competition conference (we’ll tell you […]

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