Nicholas Levy ‘Judicial review of merger decisions: An overview of EU and national case law’ (2019) Concurrences Special Issue Mergers Judicial Review

When the European Merger Control Regulation (EMCR) was adopted, there was uncertainty about whether the EU Courts would act as an effective check on the Commission’s enforcement, and exert discipline on its decisions in the same way as U.S. courts discipline the U.S. federal agencies’ determinations of whether mergers should be allowed to proceed. There was also uncertainty as to the scope for timely judicial review. History has proven the sceptics wrong. The EU Courts have played a highly significant role in shaping the law and holding the Commission to account. Although the EU Courts have recognised that judicial deference is embedded in the EU system of merger control, they have nevertheless been ready to subject Commission decisions to careful and comprehensive review. The courts have also protected merging companies’ rights of defence, striking down decisions that have been insufficiently substantiated or based on findings inadequately presented to the merging parties during the administrative process. The EU Courts have also…

John Kwoka and Tommaso Valletti ‘Scrambled Eggs and Paralyzed Policy: Breaking Up Consummated Mergers and Dominant Firms’

Competition policy has been no obstacle to the rise of dominant firms in e-commerce, social media, online search and other important aspects of the modern digital economy. The well-documented results of these trends are increasing market concentration, entrenched dominance, diminished competition and entry, and harm to consumers and businesses alike. Competition agencies, policymakers, academics, interest groups, and others have proposed various ways of addressing the weaknesses of past policy. Most of these proposed policies involve more vigorous application of conventional tools, which, however, are unable to address current levels of market concentration. However, the most obvious solution – breaking up such firms — is generally dismissed as impractical, the equivalent of trying to unscramble eggs. The authors disagree in this paper, available here. The rationale for breaking up companies is straightforward: where the essential competitive problem with a company is its structure, in the sense that its anticompetitive behaviour flows inexorably from that structure and is otherwise difficult to prevent,…

David Glasner and Sean P. Sullivan on ‘The Logic of Market Definition’ (forthcoming) Antitrust Law Journal

This paper,available here , is not technically about merger control, but it is as relevant here as in any other competition topic – and it fits nicely with wider discussions of market power and market entry, which, as we have seen in past weeks, are common in merger control. While the usefulness of, and methodologies concerning market definition would seem to be well established, in practice both are actively questioned. Some have even argued that market definition is unnecessary in competition law. While this argument is not new, Louis Kaplow has recently advanced this thesis with a particularly pointed argument that: (1) market definition serves no role except to produce market shares, (2) market shares are poor measures of market power, and (3) antitrust would be better served by ignoring market shares and trying to assess market power from estimates of residual-demand curves and the like instead. The goal of this paper is to trace the internal logic of market…

Volker Nocke and Michael D. Whinston on ‘Concentration Screens for Horizontal Mergers’ (2020) NBER Working Papers no 27533

Concentration measures play a central role in merger analysis. Existing guidelines identify various presumptions – both safe harbours and presumptions of anticompetitive effects – based on the level of the post-merger Herfindahl index and of the change that the merger induces in that index. These presumptions have a significant impact on agency decisions, especially in screening mergers for further review. However, the basis for these screens, in both form and level, remains unclear. The authors of this paper, available here, show that there is both a theoretical and an empirical basis for focusing solely on changes in the Herfindahl index, and ignoring its level, in screening mergers for whether their unilateral effects will harm consumers. The authors also argue that the levels at which the presumptions currently are set may allow mergers to proceed that cause consumer harm. Section 2 reviews concentration screens in various versions of the US Horizontal Merger Guidelines. The first version of the Merger Guidelines –…

Michal Gal ‘The Case for Limiting Private Litigation of Excessive Pricing’ (2020) Journal of Competition Law and Economics 15(2-3) 298

Excessive pricing raises strong concerns for private competition litigation, for three reasons: (1) the inherent difficulty of defining what constitutes an unfair price; (2) additional challenges inherent to private excessive pricing litigation, such as the need to pinpoint when exactly a price becomes unfair in order to calculate damages; and (3) the institutional features of general courts in EU member states. Given that private litigation of competition law violations is only beginning to develop in the EU, and collective redress mechanisms are still viewed with caution by many member states, this is exactly the time to ensure that, as private litigation expands, it will increase welfare. This is the purpose of this paper, which is available here. Section 2 addresses the inherent difficulty of determining when a price becomes unfair. The excessive pricing prohibition, though longstanding, suffers from serious and inherent difficulties in its implementation. In particular, it lacks clear and workable criteria. The challenges can be summarised as follows: to decide…

Eugenio Olmedo-Peralta ‘The Evidential Effect of Commitment Decisions in Damages Claims’ (2019) Common Market Law Review 56 979

The European Commission and national competition authorities (NCAs) make extensive use of commitment decisions. Since these decisions do not establish the existence of competition infringements, claimants still have to bear the burden of proof in stand-alone damages actions concerning conduct covered by them. However, some evidential effects should be recognised to commitment decisions, as well as to certain statements made in the context of related public enforcement proceedings. This article, available here, describes such effects as follows. Section II outlines the relationship between commitment decisions and the private enforcement of competition law. According to Regulation 1/2003, commitment decisions are adopted without concluding whether competition law has been infringed. Commitment decisions merely state that there are no longer grounds for action by a competition authority, as the behavioural or structural measures taken by the companies involved in an investigation are sufficient to put an end to the potential restriction of competition. In short, the main features of commitment decisions are that: (i) they…

OECD competition policy responses to COVID-19

This policy brief, which you can find here, discusses how competition policy can help address the immediate challenges raised by the COVID-19 crisis, whilst looking to the post-pandemic future. It describes competition principles that governments can follow when designing support measures for the economy, and outlines actions competition authorities can take to address the challenges of the current crisis. Section A focuses on state interventions, while Section B focuses on competition enforcement actions in the short and medium term. A first section concern as regards state intervention is maintaining competitive neutrality. In times of extraordinary, and temporary, demand and supply shocks, governments can support consumers, workers and firms to weather the storm while ensuring readiness to resume economic activity once the crisis passes. This may take the form of grants, subsidies, bank guarantees or other state support. Nonetheless, there is a danger that state support may distort the playing field between companies that receive aid and their competitors that do…

Jorge Padilla and Nicolas Petit on ‘Competition policy and the Covid-19 opportunity’ (2020) Concurrences 2 1

Every economic crisis raises the same normative question for competition law. Should decision makers be temporarily more permissive in their application of the law to private and public restraints of competition? While historical evidence suggests that this is a bad idea, most economic crises since the 1970s led to some softening of competition law. In countries around the world, massive amounts of state aid have been injected into the economy. While such policies deserve praise in their concern for the protection of jobs, recessions have a “cleansing effect” which is desirable and can be dampened by such interventions. Recessions facilitate the exit of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for more efficient competitors, and delay the diffusion of technological innovation. A case might thus be made that the current recession might be a source of opportunities for the EU economy, long trapped in a cycle of weak productivity, low economic dynamism and conspicuous absence of superstar firm creation. The…

Frederic Jenny ‘Economic Resilience, Globalization and Market Governance: Facing the Covid-19 Test’

Globalisation contributed to the rapid spread of COVID to all corners of the globe. The economic cost of fighting the virus froze a number of economies and disrupted global value chains, and is likely to be followed by several years of an economic depression that will dwarf the cost of the 2008 financial and economic crisis. The dramatic events of the first quarter of 2020 challenge some of the implicit assumptions underlying the design of our economic systems, and should make us think about some of the dilemmas and trade-offs that this crisis has foisted upon us. This piece, available as a working paper here,  is not mainly about competition – instead, it is a piece that thinks widely about the implications of this pandemic for the economic architecture underpinning globalisation, which also touches on competition. This is because, in the grand scheme of things, competition law and policy plays a relatively limited role when markets are not in equilibrium,…