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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

Self promotion

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We like to self promote at chillin’competition.

For instance, you will have noticed from yesterday’s post that Alfonso likes to incidentally recall that he works on a pending case against a giant US corporation.

So I take my turn to self promote a little, with a recap on recent and forthcoming chillin’competition-related activities:

  • I was in Helsinki with my friend Miguel Rato (Shearman & Sterling). We were invited to deliver a presentation at the 11th Annual Conference of the Association of European Competition Law Judges (AECLJ). With 60 judges from accross Europe in the room (including judges from Luxemburg), Richard Whish, Alexander Italianer and Nick Banasevic on the podium, this was a very challenging talk. I attach the presentation here: Slides – Petit & Rato – Abuse in Technology-Enabled Markets – 11th AECLJ Conference (14 06 12. A paper on “Abuse in Technology-Enabled Markets” is in the making;
  • The registration process for the 2012/2013 edition of the LLM in Competition Law & Economics at the Brussels School of Competition is now opened. We have a new brochure in which you will find a number of changes. A teaser: F. Jenny will teach on abuse with JF. Bellis, Alfonso’s existence is now official and several ***** economists have joined;
  • We have a GCLC lunch talk this Friday, on the Commission’s review on the rules on technology transfer agreements. Our speakers are Donncadh Woods (DG Competition), Frédéric Louis (WilmerHale) and Paul Lugard (Tilburg Institute for Law and Economics (TILEC) and ICC Commission on Competition);
  • Ana Paula Martinez (Levy & Salomao) is the editor of a new, impressive volume entitled Temas Atuais de Direito da Concorrencia with written contributions (in English) from S. Salop, E. Elhauge, D. Geradin, Mariana Tavares de Araujo, Ian S. Forrester and Francisco Enrique González-Díaz. Here’s the leaflet and table of contents: GED_LS-#845180-v1-2012_Brazil_Competition_Book
  • I was in Strasbourg yesterday to lecture on IP and competition law at the CEIPI and I will be in Bruges tomorrow to give a presentation at the 8th ELEA symposium. It is a very busy week, like last week… and hopefully unlike next week.

Written by Nicolas Petit

19 June 2012 at 11:44 am