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Archive for April 18th, 2017

Evidence, Proof and Judicial Review in EU Competition Law

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Fernando Castillo de la Torre and Eric Gippini Fournier have produced what I certainly one of the most interesting competition law books on the market. Readers of this blog are already familiar with the authors: Eric is one of our Friday Slots interviewees (see here), and Fernando is the author of the downloadable compendium of cartel law that broke some of our records last year (see here); for those interested in an update on 2016 cartel case law, a gift is available here: Cartel case law 2017 (Castillo)

Their publisher sent us their book for review. Reading the book over the Easter holidays was actually enjoyable (in my defense, I had this review to write; Pablo on the other hand read it out of pure enjoyment…).  Admittedly, my review does face a problem, which is my lack of objectivity. They are both friends and some of the people with whom we most enjoy discussing antitrust issues. As President Lenaerts’ notes in his foreword to the book, each of them has acted for the Commission in over 300 cases before the EU Courts (including many of the 102 and 101 seminal cases we have all studied). Few people have their inside-out, theoretical and practical, historical and current, knowledge of the law. Their knowledge is not only encyclopedic, but particularly in the case of Fernando, also based on an scary photographic memory (he knows by heart case numbers, paragraphs and the most tiny details of cases….).  And I know well what I am saying: I have worked against and with Fernando on a number of cases, and only at present I oppose Eric in, I think, 32 pending cases before the General Court and the Court of Justice.

In his interview with us back in the day, Eric said that “[t]he best antitrust books are slow food, the result of a long process by one or two cooks, not more”. This book meets both requirements, it was slowly cooked by only two chefs, knowingly for the past 8 years, and unknowingly for perhaps a couple of decades.

Enough about the authors’ authority; let’s move to the substance. Importantly, the book is not about black letter law. The book explores issues of evidence, proof and judicial review based on a systematic analysis of a vast amount of cases. And I mean cases, not case law. Anyone who has experience before the EU Courts is well aware that reading Judgments does not provide one with a full understanding of the case, of the evidence of the debates and, therefore, of proof and judicial review. This book builds on underlying knowledge of facts, techniques, approaches and mindsets that are not always –or almost never- evident from a mere reading of Judgments (not that many people read Judgments in any case…). Their effort to build on that knowledge and systematize it or discuss it comprehensively is particularly important in an area where, as they note, EU Courts “tend to be reluctant to develop general theories and would rather decide on the facts of the case”.

You will find in the book thorough discussions of general rules on the assessment of evidence, specific discussions on single and continuous infringements, duration, defenses and fines, followed by a most useful assessment of the probative value of different types of evidentiary means [these are, by the way, topics on which they had written extensively before and on which I have also given my views, although so far only in relation to cartel law (see here); another friend of this blog and colleague of Pablo, Andriani Kalintiri, has authored two excellent pieces on this, see here].The book also includes two chapters on judicial review centered on how judges assess evidence and on the different standards of review that Courts apply, in reality, beyond semantics.

The book states and summarizes the state of the law, but it does more than that. The authors also provide their personal insights and views on the issues they discuss. This means that reading the book will give you further objective knowledge and also additional elements for debate. It also means that, inevitably, there will be points on which the reader may disagree with the authors or where one would like to go even deeper into the debate. I, for one, share many but not all of their views and would have perhaps liked a more extensive debate on evidence, standard and burden of proof in conducting counterfactual assessments (a topic that is touched upon in the book, but not extensively, despite the Commission’s struggles -and even Court defeats- in past and ongoing cases). For a work with a scope as large as that of this book, however, the authors have remarkably managed to treat a huge number of issues with just the right level of depth.

In the book you will also find  a [spoiler alert] reasoned defense of the case law, the current system of enforcement and judicial review.  To be sure, they note that “the temptation to argue that courts apply ‘light’ or ‘heavy’ standards, depending on the outcome, is high when the person has represented the losing side” and, whilst there is certainly some truth to this observation, the fact that both authors have represented the winning side in an overwhelming majority of cases may perhaps also influence their view [with this I’m now on the verge of losing a free beer from them for this review….]. But even, or specially, those who may not share the author’s views should read the book, for nowhere else they will find an open, bold and tightly argued explanation and defense of those views, which in their large majority hold sway within the Commission and the Courts. In my view, regardless of agreements or disagreements, understanding these views in indispensable to anyone working in this field.

In sum, this is a one-of-a-kind contribution to the competition law literature and, truly, a must-read not only for litigators, but for any competition lawyer, for I have always believed that any argument in an administrative case should be framed with  eventual judicial scrutiny in mind. Unless you are willing to read some few hundred Judgments and process them systematically, the only available option is for you to read the book.

You can buy it here.

Should you have doubts about my standard of (book) review, I can produce evidence to support my conclusions: the freely downloadable chapter available here should constitute proof of everything I say in this review.


Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

18 April 2017 at 10:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized