Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for March 2013

Next GCLC Lunch Talk

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At the GCLC, we have just scheduled a promising lunch talk on the Commission’s UPS/TNT Decision on 4 April.

Our speakers are Stephan Simon (DG COMP), Winfred Knibbeler (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) and Andrea Lofaro (RBB Economics).

For registation see here.

For more, see Andrea’s excellent RBB Brief hereafter: RBB_B41_Brief_V3.

Written by Nicolas Petit

17 March 2013 at 6:52 pm

Learning curve

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Random thoughts following yesterday’s discussion:

  • Google translate is an ordoliberal software
  • Or … the systematic removal of “effect” from Treaty translations may be part of the settlement currently discussed with DG COMP (in a bid to please the ordos within the Commission)
  • The bad news about inconsistencies in the various language versions of the horizontal cooperation guidelines and of the guidance paper? EU law not applied uniformly.
  • The good news? Entitles to perform natural experiments, and test in real life the economic impact of distinct legal standards

Written by Nicolas Petit

16 March 2013 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Lost in Translation

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[Please read this post with caution] Heard from a seasoned German-speaking Member of the Court of justice of the EU.

The fuzz about the object-effect dichotomy that has kept generations of EU competition lawyers busy would be a moot issue. We dumd: last year, at the GCLC, we devoted a full conference and book to this issue.

This is because this distinction arguably does not exist [following Hans, Petra and Rainer’s clarifications, I suspect this eminent person meant is “not really relevant”] in the German-language version of the Treaties. Hence the Court’s reluctance to consider effects in antitrust cases.

Puzzled by this assertion, I ran my investigation. At this juncture, I must mention that I am a complete German illiterate.

So here we go: I first consulted the wording of Article 101(1) of the Treaty in German:

“(1) Mit dem Binnenmarkt unvereinbar und verboten sind alle Vereinbarungen zwischen Unternehmen, Beschlüsse von Unternehmensvereinigungen und aufeinander abgestimmte Verhaltensweisen, welche den Handel zwischen Mitgliedstaaten zu beeinträchtigen geeignet sind und eine Verhinderung, Einschränkung oder Verfälschung des Wettbewerbs innerhalb des Binnenmarkts bezwecken oder bewirken, insbesondere”

Then I asked Google to translate this text to English:

“(1) The internal market incompatible and all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the internal market and in particular those”

No trace of the word “effect“.

I did the same in French:

“(1) Le marché intérieur incompatibles et interdits tous accords entre entreprises, toutes décisions d’associations d’entreprises et toutes pratiques concertées qui sont susceptibles d’affecter le commerce entre États membres et qui ont pour objet d’empêcher, restreindre ou de fausser la concurrence au sein du marché intérieur et en particulier ceux”

Again, no trace of the word “effect“.

A weird finding. All the more so given that the official Treaty translation explicitly talks of “effect“.

So here I am, pondering whether I am making this up or if, as this distinguished Court Member hinted, there is a linguistic reason for the absence of serious effects analysis in the Court’s case-law.

Now, if the other language versions of the Treaty talk of “effect“, which version of the Treaty is the right one?

Gee, me completely lost in translation.

PS1: On this, I’d advise Google to manipulate its translation service, and reintroduce the “effect” word in all Treaty translations.

See below for more evidence (a print of my screen).


Written by Nicolas Petit

15 March 2013 at 9:33 am

Job Application

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Yesterday, one of my LL.M students made the buzz in French press.

President Hollande was apparently in Dijon to deliver a speech on new government-sponsored traineeships for young people without a degree.

Louis Godart, currently enrolled in our ULg LL.M, was in Dijon too.

He managed to hand in his CV to Hollande, and urged him to also help students with a degree, who too face hurdles on the labour market.

For more, see here.

A hat tip to Louis for his brave move. We don’t teach martial arts to our students – shall we? – so I am very curious to learn how he managed to make it through Hollande’s muscle men.

Louis also made a clever move. After all, in a country like France where Governement is omnipresent, the best mailbox to post a job application is that of the President, not that of the private sector.

Finally, a big thank you to Louis for the unexpected publicity for our ULg LL.M. On this, I must stress that the programme keeps improving. We have this year a group of 25 very motivated students, who come from all over Europe. And we’ll soon be appointing a new Professor in IP and innovation law (for the call for applications (in French), see link below;  If anyone’s interested by this, pls drop a line).

Vacance – Charge de cours – Droit de l’innovation et de la PI

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

13 March 2013 at 7:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Antitrust History

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A lot has been written on the history of the EU antitrust rules.

Those familiar with Jean Monnet’s Memoirs know that the wording of EU competition law owes a lot to the drafting skills of George Ball.

But I personnally did not know that the Brussels office of Cleary, the oft-cited n°1 law firm on the Brussels market:

was established in 1960 as a direct consequence of the close relationship between Jean Monnet and former Under-Secretary of State, George Ball, one of the firm’s founding partners and legal advisor to Jean Monnet on the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the drafting of the Treaties of the European Communities.

Caveat 1: this is no advertisement for Cleary.

Caveat 2: this is not another rant at conflicts of interests.

For more on Ball, see here and here.

Written by Nicolas Petit

11 March 2013 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Microsoft’s contribution to the EU budget

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Today the European Commission imposed a 561 million euros fine on Microsoft (roughly 37 euros per each of the 15 million copies of Windows that were sold in the EU in breach of the 2009 commitment).

As I said in a previous post, I don’t think anyone believes that Microsoft did this on purpose, so the amount of the fine might have come as a surprise to quite a few people (although not to those who participated in Nico’s poll yesterday).

In any case, this is the third time that Microsoft contributes to the EU Budget because of competition related matters. In total, it has paid approximately 2 billion euros.

[Btw, I couldn’t help remembering Neelie Kroes statement after fining Intel 1 billion euros: “Intel´s latest advertising campaign proposes Intel as the sponsors of tomorrow; well, now they are  the sponsors of the European tax payer” (two years ago we nominated the video of this speech to an Antitrust Oscar)].

When one hears about these figures it’s easy not to realize what numbers mean. So we’ve decided to help you become aware of what 2 billion represent:

According to the World Bank there are 41 countries in the world whose GDP is lower than 2.1 billion euros (approx 2.7 billion dollars).

With 2 billion euros the European Union could:

Bail out banks in Cyprus (estimates say that it will cost up to 2 billion);

Pay  for a couple of ambitious science projects (like studying graphene and fighting brain disease);

Buy the full squads of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or Manchester United to represent DG Comp in the internal football championship;

Buy half of an aircraft carrier (don’t know why they would want an aircraft carrier, or why they would only want half, but I’ve seen more absurd public spending…);

Pay DG Comp’s budget (93,5 million euros) for 21 years;

Develop the atomic bomb (not in today’s money, though; it cost 2 billion back in 1945).

Buy a few Greek islands for its officials to go on holidays (the most expensive one I’ve seen here costs 150 million..). Odd thing, I saw an ad for Bahamas islands on sale, and there is a private islands magazine with a Fall/Winter catalog for islands (!)

Produce all of the 10 most expensive films in history (Pirate’s of the Caribbean, Tangled, Spider-Man 3, John Carter, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Avatar, The Dark Knight Rises, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Avengers).

Build the tallest building in the world to host DG Comp (it would be more impressive than the Madou Tower to which it is moving…the Burj Khalifa costed 1.5 billion). For my suggestion on how it could look like, see here  🙂

Anymore ideas??

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

6 March 2013 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Hotch Potch, Jokes

An Unprecedented Fine

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There’s a big storm coming.

Tomorrow, the Commission will slap  yet another stratospheric fine against Microsoft.

We’re told that Microsoft did not implement the “browser choice” remedy negotiated with the Commission in 2009.

Worst: this is apparently due to an internal communication failure.

Alfonso blogged about this a while ago (meanwhile disclosing his core musical tastes).

Because the Commission understandably wants compliance but may be reluctant to micro-monitor the implementation of settlements, the fine will likely be high.

But how high?

Written by Nicolas Petit

5 March 2013 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized