Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for the ‘Interesting Links’ Category

An announcement and a nomination

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bestes jurablog 2014 sonderpreis ausland

The announcement:  On 15 February my co-blogger Monsieur le Professeur Nicolas Laurent Max Petit (no kiddin’) will be joining DG COMP for a 6-month stint.  I’m curious as to how this experience will impact his views on the Europen Commission’s work.

Btw, Nico took care of the inaugural lecture at the IEB course in Madrid on Friday and did a great job. Tomorrow he’ll be delivering a must-attend presentation on Art. 102 at Les Mardis de la Concurrence in Brussels (the PPP will be made available here).

The nomination: Chillin’Competition has been nominated as one of the best foreign legal blogs in a competition ran by our favorite German site (Kartellblog) (as if we were able to read German…). Thanks to Johannes Zöttle and to whovever nominated us. Since it’s always nice to win something (or so I’m told  😉 ) you can vote for us here: http://kartellblog.de/2014/01/06/poll-beste-jurablogs-2014/

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

13 January 2014 at 9:09 pm

Pomposity v Social Value in Legal (and Antitrust) Scholarship

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I just saw this graph on Prof. Einer Elhauge’s LinkedIn account; the original source is Eric Posner’s blog (yes, the son of Richard Posner and a big name in his own right too).

I’d be curious to know about the underlying methodology (economic analysis seems to favor economy-related disciplines). It would seem as if an antitrust legal scholar had asked an economist to come up with a seemingly scientific study corroborating a given thesis. Not that this would ever happen in private practice…  🙂

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

9 January 2014 at 1:12 pm

Antitrust tidbits

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– On Friday Brazil’s CADE announced that it’s also investigating Google pursuant to a complaint filed by Microsoft (see here). The investigation appears to address the very same practices previously investigated by the FTC and DG Comp, on which we’ve already commented ad nauseam. I may reduce my coverage of all Google-related issues (despite the attention we’ve paid to that case in recent times, there’s world beyond that in antitrust), but given that my firm is finally! currently betting big in Latin America (see here), I’ll now be spending more time looking at competition law developments over there, and possibly commenting on them here. Btw, if you’re interested, there is a very good blog on competition law in Latin America.

– Some of you may have wondered about how the Federal Government shutdown in the States is affecting antitrust enforcement. If that’s the case, here are the contingency plans set up by the DOJ and the FTC.  On a non-antitrust related note, I’d strongly recommend you to check out Jon Stewart’s hilarious coverage of the shutdown:  Rockin’ Shutdown Eve

– Headhunting season remains open in the Brussels legal market, with David Hull also leaving Covington (third partner to leave in recent weeks following Lars Kjolbye and G.Berrisch) to join VanBael & Bellis.  Speaking of headhunting, for some interesting thorughts on the Brussels recruiting world, check out Steve Meier’s blog.

– A friend sent me this piece from abovethelaw.com on 10 Reasons to Leave BigLaw. Don’t think that a good part of what it says applies to everyone, but it’s always good to measure your choices against a contrarian -even if arguably exaggerated- view.

– Certainly the most relevant thing that happened in the antitrust field in the past few days (or maybe not) was my presentation about Interoperability in the payments industry last Thursday in Brussels 🙂  Here’s my presentation: Interop_Payments_Lamadrid (only makes sense if you click on slideshow).

Until I was invited to do this I’d frankly never paid much atention to the much-hyped mobile payment fever, but have now discovered a most interesting area. As I explained at the conference, if smartphones and payments have received so much antitrust scrutiny on their own, their marriage will be something like an antitrust lawyers’Nirvana!

The sector shares all the interesting features of high tech (multi-layered, multi-sided, strong network effects, rapid evolution, etc.) but has the peculiarity to feature both strong incumbents and stong entrants (traditional payment service providers, mobile network operators, tech companies…), all of which enjoy some degree of market power that they’re trying to leverage. The business strategy aspects of it are most interesting: everyone is setting up alliances (often with natural competitors), often betting on multiple horses, and at the same time acting unilaterally not to renounce the opportunity to reign the market (hence the Game of thrones slide). At the same time, we’re told that all players will end up holding hands and competing happily in an interoperable candyland where consumers’ life will be made easy and pleasant (hence the following slide). My bet is that on that road a number of interesting competition issues will arise, notably concerning access to the “secure element” (which is the key to the provision of m-payment services).

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

12 October 2013 at 5:17 pm

Must reads

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I’ve been rather inactive here in the past few days due to work-related obligations, and my sense of guilt has been increased by the merits of other competition law bloggers:

– In the past few days the main media outlets in Spain have echoed a controversy related to creation of the new competition authority (see here and here for my take on the reform; btw, the new competition watchdog is operative since yesterday) that has unfortunately culminated in the stepping down of a very able Director of Investigation. A voice that has resonated very specially has been that of a fellow-blogger (and frequent commentator on this blog), Jesús Alfaro. You may or may not agree with everything or anything of what Jesús says, but you certainly won’t read anything as bold and fearless as his blog post and his article on the subject (in Spanish though). Only for that it deserves that we bring it to your attention. See here and here.

– On another front, one of the most worthy people I’ve come to meet thanks to this blog has started his own: http://www.twentyfirstcenturycompetition.com/  (not saying the authors’ name to force you to satisfy your curiosity by clicking the link…). Congrats to him (and compliments to DG Comp for having authorized him to do it). We’ll try to maximize cross-fertilization of ideas (and possibly charge an interchange fee, given that, according to basic economics, the ideas in Chillin’Competition -needless in a haystack- should be more valuable due to their scarcity) 🙂

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

8 October 2013 at 5:44 pm

April Fools Day hoax triggers a DG Comp request for information (no kidding)

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On April 1st 2013 a Belgian website (Pagtour.net) published the news that there was a project to expand Charleroi’s airport with a second runway (see here).

The piece explained that secret plans to expand the airport had been found in a secret chest, and that they had been drawn up by a secret Commission whose members only drank Spa water and met at restaurants specialized in fish and zinc. It was -some would say obviously- an April’s fools day hoax (or, as they’re called here, a “poisson d’avril” (April’s fish).

However, as reported in a bunch of Belgian news outlets (see l’Echole Soir, la RTBFmsn actualité 7sur7, la DH, le Morgen, RTL, La libre,) DG COMP apparently swallowed the fish whole (!!)

Belgian authotities are reported to have received a request for information dated on 31 July (just like April’s fools hoaxes are done on April 1, the EC’s jokes information requests in the EU are sent out on 31 July to spoil some poor lawyers’ and company employees’ vacations..) asking about the reported plans , and referring to the hoax piece at issue as a source  🙂

The Commission is reported to have stated today that information requests are supposed to be of a confidential nature.

Many of you may not know that there’s actually (or, rather, there was until 2011; pity) an established tradition of antitrust-related April Fools Day jokes published by the American Antitrust Institute. They’re all available here, my favorite ones being:

Antitrust Controlled by Jerks, Says New Evolutionary Biology Report  (I bought that one; thought it made a lot of sense..)

and

As US Attorney General Gonzales Confidentially Reports, There’s Nothing Funny About Antitrust

By the way, what has happened with the joke on Charlerois is not a first; some journalists in the States also picked up the AAI hoax on President Bush’s proposal to merge antitrust agencies with the Department for Homeland Security..

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

19 August 2013 at 7:36 pm

Is associate lawyer the unhappiest job?

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Looking at my Facebook newsfeed last night I saw that a friend (well, a Facebook friend, you know) had posted a story on how, according to a Forbes’ story, associate attorney is the No. 1 in a list of unhappiest jobs. Legal assistant ranks 7th.

This is quite troublesome, for it means that a great chunk of our readers are unhappy. I could have figured it out; who else would want to read half-serious competition law blogs??  [a suggestion to GoogleAds; it would be smart to place ads for anti-depressant pills on Chillin’Competition]

The list of happiest and unhappiest jobs has been compiled by a jobs website called CareerBliss, which has based it on reviews completed by more than 65,000 employees, accounting for factors such as life-work balance, work environment, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture and control over daily work. According to this site, a great deal of associates’s unhappiness is due to billable hour pressure, as well as to prevalent up or out policies.

Those who attribute this reported unhappiness to billable-hour pressure may find their ideas vindicated in a most interesting and provocative New York Times’ op-ed on The Tyranny of the Billable Hour published last week. At one point it refers to lawyers who ended up in jail for billing fictictous hours, which reminded me of a joke you might’ve heard:

– A prominent lawyer suddenly dies and arrives at the Gates of Heaven. When St. Peter greets him the lawyer protests that his untimely death had to be some sort of mistake: “I’m much too young to die! I’m only 35!”. St. Peter agrees that 35 seems to be a bit young to be entering the pearly gates, and agrees to check on his case. When St. Peter returned, he tells the attorney, “I’m afraid that the mistake must be yours, my son. We verified your age on the basis of the number of hours you’ve billed to your clients, and you’re at least 108.! “.   🙂

I believe I might have gone a bit off topic… Coming back to the issue of unhappiness, you may remember that in the past we’ve devoted some attention to this issue. See, e.g. my random thoughts on life at law firms, Nico’s I love my job and my reply in Re: I love my job, or the more recent Where to work in Brussels?

You know my take. We’re privileged. If I compare what we do with what other people outside our circle do, well, we don’t have much reason to complain. One of my best friends in the competition law world used to work, among many others, at suspect identification parades in England (Mark, you don’t mind me writing this, right?) and I bet that he likes it better now (do you?) 😉

But the fact remains that there’s a problem, that many associates are unhappy doing what is and should be a most interesting job, and that many things could be done better,  so we’d like to pose you a question: what do you think is the problem, and how do you think it could be fixed?

 

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

3 April 2013 at 12:35 am

7th Junior Competition Conference – Private Actions

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CompetitionLawJ_full_cover

Our friends David Bailey (Brick Court Chambers), Christopher Brown (Matrix) and Sarah Long (Allen&Overy) are throwing a nice antitrust conference in London on 25 January 2013. We repost hereafter the cover email they sent us:

The 7th Junior Competition Conference

Reforming private actions in competition law

at the Competition Appeal Tribunal

on Friday 25 January 2013 at 2:00 pm

This conference is open to all those involved in UK competition law, economics and policy, whether in practice, in public service or in academia. Admission to the conference is free. The conference programme can be found here

As in previous years we anticipate that demand will be very high. Places will be given on a ‘first come, first served’ basis: for those interesting in coming, please contact us as soon as possible at operations@catribunal.org.uk.

Due to the popularity of the event and capacity constraints, please note that the following conditions apply:

    • Attendees should be “junior” in the sense that we do not anticipate attendance by partners of law firms or economics consultancies, senior barristers, senior officials in public service or senior academics.
    • To ensure that there is a good cross-section of the junior ‘competition community’, we may have to limit the numbers of attendees from any one organisation.
    • If you are given a place and subsequently discover that you are unable to take it up, please could you notify the organisers as soon as possible, so that we may give your place to someone else.

Written by Nicolas Petit

17 December 2012 at 7:00 am

Posted in Interesting Links

Best Antitrust Movie Ever

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission  just released “The Marker”.

In the category best compliance film, this one is poised to earn our Oscar this year.

Most antitrust films that we know look like crafted and played by competition officials themselves. Think of the hilarious “The Raid“.

Here, everything looks like the standard Hollywood film, i.e. casting, direction, music, photography, etc.

A real must see.

PS: Thanks to Joachim Marchandise for the pointer.

Written by Nicolas Petit

4 September 2012 at 7:08 pm

Can Do Better

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Whilst seating on the beach, I read last week’s (now) famous Economist piece on fines.

I was quite astonished to read that The Economist supports further increases in corporate fines. The conclusion of the paper speaks for itself: “To deter bad behaviour fines need to rise. The watchdog are biting, but some need sharper teeth“.

That said, I found the paper a little weak. Strangely enough, it says nothing of most issues that currently matter in respect of corporate fines:

  • No word on sanctions for individuals, in the form of director disqualification orders;
  • Some references to theoretical studies, including references to the economics of crime (G. Becker) and cartel overcharges (O’Connor & Helmers), but no word on principal-agent problems in large multinational corporations;
  • No word on the issue of fines in times of economic crisis;
  • No word on compliance programmes.

Is there a hidden agenda there or am I again reading newspapers like the devil reads the bible?

Arguably, those omissions may be explained by the fact that the paper is not antitrust-related only (quod non). The paper opens with some words on the economics of corporate fines, and follows with a brief discussion of the penalties inflicted to Barclays a few weeks ago. But after this, the meat of the paper really is a discussion of antitrust fines. And even if it were true that the paper takes a larger focus, it remains silent on a number of  key issues. Think, for instance, to the trade-off  that regulators are now facing, i.e. sanctioning banks with hefty fines v. ensuring banking stability with subsidies.

The bottom-line: The Economist can do better…

Written by Nicolas Petit

31 July 2012 at 7:32 am

Interviews with Commissioner Almunia

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By the time you read this Nicolas and I should hopefully be away on holidays. We have scheduled this “lazy” post  for those interested in watching the series of video-interviews with Commissioner Almunia published by the independent EU policy broadcaster viEUws.

In these interviews (you can click on the hyperlinks to watch the videos) Commissioner Almunia talks about the Google investigation, Microsoft’s lack of compliance with browser choice, Standard Essential Patents (Apple vs. Samsung, Motorola vs. Apple & Motorola vs. Microsoft), State aid & cross-border mergers in the European banking sector as well as about the Libor / Euribor case.

After the holidays we will do our best provide you with our very own interview with Joaquín Almunia. Any suggestions as to possible questions that you would like him to respond to?

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

30 July 2012 at 12:01 am