A French newspaper revealed on Friday that an offence of insider trading may have been committed when Pechiney was acquired by Alcan, with possible links to DG COMP. The Commission has carried out its own inquiry. So far, it has no reason to believe that any of its officials was involved in insider trading activities. Check here for the article or here and here for further info in english.
The GCLC had today its 13th Lunch Talk on Access to File. You can download Karen Williams' (hearing officer at the European Commission) and Martin Berchtold's (partner at Clifford Chance Brussels) slides at the end of this post.
We recently wrote a paper on price discrimination which was presented at the 2nd Annual Conference of the GCLC. Our main finding is that Article 82(c) EC - which forbids dominant firms from placing trading parties at a competitive disadvantage through discriminatory practices - has been applied far beyond its original scope (the "Robinson-Patman Act" kinds of practices) to sanction other forms unilateral conduct by dominant firms, including rebates, selective price cuts, or geographic price discrimination. The paper submits that this extension is not justified and dangerous. The Commission and the Community courts indeed seem to have relied extensively on Article 82(c) in order, among others, to circumvent the high evidentiary tresholds required under Article 82(b). You can download a version of the paper at the end of this post. Your comments are most welcome.
David Lawsky reports that Bo Vesterdorf (the President of the CFI) proposed a change of the judge handling the Microsoft case, following the controversial interview given by Judge Legal to a French legal journal. See here for his story. The words used by Judge Legal to describe some members of the CFI have apparently upset a part of the CFI's staff. Vesterdorf proposed to chair the new panel that will take over the case.
Judge Hubert Legal (who is currently trying the Microsoft case) had unusual words ("ayatollahs of free enterprise") when evoking the CFI's staff in a recent interview he gave to the Revue Concurrences. See here for David Lawsky's story on the subject. In addition to this, it should be noted that Judge Legal made a strong call for judicial restraint, saying it was not the role of the CFI to retry a case (contrasting this situation with the US antitrust enforcement system). See also here for one of our recent papers dealing with the extent of judicial review.
The Commission released today a consultation paper on State aid reform which elaborates a strategy for ensuring less and better aid. The publication of this paper had been delayed until the result of the French referendum on the European Constitution would be out. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the Action Plan until 15 September. The text of the paper can be found here.
N. Kroes delivered yesterday an interesting speech in Bonn. Besides the announcement that the Commission would launch two sectoral inquiries in the financial services and the energy sector (gas and electricity), the Commissioner evoked at length the question of public measures restricting competition (which now clearly appears to be one of the top priorities of her mandate, see our former posts on State aid). At the European level, the Commissioner explained that "competition testing" mechanisms were being introduced to check any piece of EC legislation against the goal of protecting the competitive process. But the most interesting part of her speech concerned national measures restricting competition. The Commissioner seems to consider there is a lot of work to do on the issue. Although the speech does not contain any ground-breaking pronouncement on the subject matter, the Commissioner interestingly evoked the possibility to use provisions of the EC Treaty which have, for the past years, only been applied scarcely (Article 10/81 EC and Article 86). Note that the GCLC held a lunch talk on the subject matter a few months ago. See here for J. Temple Lang's article.