In defence of tried and tested merger control

In defence of tried and tested merger control

The proposals to change European merger control, in particular with a view to paving the way for national and European champions, keep irritating the competition law community. This week, the Financial Times published an Open Letter signed by 92 practitioners from law firms and economic consultancies and academics. D’Kart documents this contribution to the debate – with thanks to Vanessa Turner who started the initiative.

The recent Franco-German proposals to potentially soften and/or politicize competition enforcement in the EU continue to generate debate. The European Council conclusions of 22 March suggest that some, as yet unclear, change will be included in future competition policy to reflect “global market developments”. Although the Council conclusions are neutrally presented, to the extent that they would implement some of the Franco-German proposals, the undersigned, writing in a personal capacity, believe that they risk benefiting only a small number of large EU companies, would undermine competitive markets in the EU, make EU citizens worse off and put the legal certainty that businesses demand at risk.

The undersigned are all lawyers or economists, many practising competition law and advising companies – national, EU and global – on merger enforcement. While no system is perfect, and updates to improve any system must be considered, companies value the fairness and predictability of the current EU system. Improving European competition law should not mean abandoning tried and tested sound legal and economic analysis. Weakening this system – a system that has been admired and copied by many newer competition regimes around the world – will not lead to “a fairer and more effective global level playing field”.

At a time when many countries continue to struggle with the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, we do not believe that shifting the emphasis of European competition law bargaining power away from European consumers and other economic operators and applying different rules to European champions is the right policy or economic approach. Effective and transparent competition policy enforcement, and judicial review, creates an environment for more efficient and innovative businesses to emerge and thrive. Undermining free and fair competition would do the opposite. Although sometimes individual companies may benefit from weaker competition enforcement, most companies, most of the time, would not. European democracies are not based on protecting the interests of the few.

Commissioner Vestager has admirably faced down political intervention in merger assessment; we hope that in the coming months and years the European Commission will continue its strong defence of fair, evenhanded and fact-based competition enforcement.

Yours sincerely

  • Vanessa Turner, Allen & Overy LLP, Brussels
  • Anna Lyle-Smythe, Slaughter and May, Brussels
  • Maurits Dolmans, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Brussels/London
  • Salomé Cisnal De Ugarte, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Brussels
  • Olivier Fréget, Fréget & Associés, Paris
  • Weijer VerLoren van Themaat, Houthoff, Amsterdam
  • Gerwin Van Gerven, Linklaters LLP, Brussels
  • Kevin Coates, Covington & Burling LLP, Brussels
  • Antonio Bavasso, Allen & Overy LLP and University College London, London
  • Riccardo Celli, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Brussels
  • Stephen Kinsella, Sidley Austin LLP, Brussels/London
  • Marta Sendrowicz, Allen & Overy LLP, Warsaw
  • Vincent Brophy, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, London/Brussels
  • Antonio Martinez, Allen & Overy LLP, Madrid
  • Bernard Amory, Jones Day, Brussels
  • Trevor Soames, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, Brussels
  • Niall Collins, Mason Hayes & Curran, Dublin
  • Alec Burnside, Dechert LLP, Brussels
  • Clemens Graf York von Wartenburg, Dechert LLP, Brussels/Frankfurt
  • Tom McQuail, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Brussels
  • Marius Juonys, Ellex Valiunas, Vilnius
  • Peter Alexiadis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Brussels
  • Robert Neruda, Havel & Partners s.r.o., Brno
  • Simon Holmes, Center for Competition Law and Policy, Oxford University, Oxford
  • Martin Andre Dittmer, Gorrissen Federspiel, Copenhagen
  • Erik Kjar-Hansen, Gorrissen Federspiel, Copenhagen
  • Federico Ghezzi, Bocconi University, Milan
  • Florian Wagner-von Papp, University College London, London
  • Wouter Devroe, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Allen & Overy LLP, Leuven/Brussels
  • Richard Whish, King’s College London, London
  • Denis Waelbroeck, Ashurst LLP, Brussels
  • Mel Marquis, European University Institute, Florence
  • Christian Ahlborn, Linklaters LLP, London
  • Simon Pritchard, Linklaters LLP, London
  • Anastasios A. Antoniou, Antoniou McCollum & Co. LLC., Nicosia
  • Nicole Kar, Linklaters LLP, London
  • Jonas Koponen, Linklaters LLP, Brussels
  • Francesco Rosati, RBB Economics, Brussels
  • Cristoforo Osti, Chiomenti Studio Legale, Rome
  • Christian Wik, Roschier, Helsinki
  • Anne Witt, University of Leicester, Leicester
  • Miguel Mendes Pereira, Vieira de Almeida & Associados, Lisbon
  • Susanne Zuehlke, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Brussels
  • Bernd Meyring, Linklaters LLP, Brussels
  • Carlos Pinto Correia, Linklaters LLP, Lisbon
  • Peter Petrov, Boyanov & Co., Sofia
  • Mario Krka, Divjak Topic Bahtijarevic, Zagreb
  • Philip Andrews, McCann FitzGerald, Dublin
  • Jorge Padilla, Compass Lexecon, Madrid/London/Brussels
  • Cani Fernandez, Cuatrecasas, Madrid/Brussels
  • Aleksandra Boutin, Positive Competition, Brussels
  • Xavier Boutin, Positive Competition, Brussels
  • Thilo Klein, Compass Lexecon, London/Dusseldorf
  • Miguel de la Mano, Compass Lexecon, Brussels
  • Cristina Caffarra, Charles River Associates, Brussels/London
  • Neil Dryden, Compass Lexecon, London
  • Michael J Reynolds, Allen & Overy LLP, London/Brussels
  • Miranda Cole, Covington & Burling LLP, Brussels/London
  • Matthew Bennett, Charles River Associates, London
  • Oliver Latham, Charles River Associates, London
  • Laurent Flochel, Charles River Associates, Paris
  • Pierre Regibeau, Charles River Associates, London
  • Raphael De Coninck, Charles River Associates, Brussels
  • Lars Wiethaus, Charles River Associates, Brussels
  • Simon Chisholm, Charles River Associates, London
  • Benno Buehler, Charles River Associates, Munich/Brussels
  • Diana Jackson, Charles River Associates, London
  • Ian Small, Charles River Associates, London
  • Dan Donath, Charles River Associates, London
  • Rainer Nitsche, E.CA Economics, Berlin/Brussels
  • Sean-Paul Brankin, Crowell & Moring LLP, Brussels
  • Zoltan Biro, Frontier Economics, London
  • Mette Alfter, Frontier Economics, Brussels
  • Vincent Verouden, E.CA Economics, Brussels
  • Assimakis Komninos, White & Case LLP, Brussels
  • Jacquelyn MacLennan, White & Case LLP, Brussels
  • Alfonso Lamadrid De Pablo, J&A Garrigues, S.L.P., Brussels
  • Elo Tamm, COBALT, Tallinn
  • Gabor Fejes, Oppenheim, Budapest
  • David Parker, Frontier Economics, London
  • Rachel Webster, Frontier Economics, London
  • David Foster, Frontier Economics, London
  • Richard Murgatroyd, RBB Economics, London
  • Jan Peter van der Veer, RBB Economics, Brussels
  • Josef Drexl, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich
  • Andrea Oršulova, Nedelka Kubač advokati s.r.o., Bratislava
  • Dace Silava-Tomsone, COBALT, Riga
  • Ilkka Leppihalme, Dittmar & Indrenius, Helsinki
  • Milan Brouček, Havel & Partners s.r.o., Brno
  • Serge Clerckx, Jones Day, Brussels
  • Leena Lindberg, Krogerus, Helsinki
  • Katri Joenpolvi, Krogerus, Helsinki

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