Yale School of Management

Yale SOM Conference Draws Top Experts for Consideration of the Future of Antitrust Enforcement

“Problems in Global Antitrust Enforcement,” a two-day conference organized by Yale School of Management, brought together antitrust enforcement officials, senior executives, top antitrust lawyers, and academics at Edward P. Evans Hall for a critical assessment of major challenges in the field on February 19 and 20.

The conference was organized by Fiona Scott Morton, the Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics at Yale SOM; Edward A. Snyder, the Indra K. Nooyi Dean and William S. Beinecke Professor of Economics and Management at Yale SOM; Pierre Cremieux, managing principal of the Analysis Group and a lecturer at the Yale School of Management; and D. Daniel Sokol, professor of law at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

The conference examined two primary subject areas: global cartel enforcement and non-convergent enforcement in the technology sector. Participants came from countries in Asia, the European Union, and South America, as well as the United States. 

In his opening remarks, Edward A. Snyder, noted that antitrust laws have spread to cover nearly 96% of the world’s economy since the 1950s. Snyder said it was critical for top antitrust enforcers to discuss the “tsunami-like expansion of antitrust regimes” and try to understand its implications.

“The fact is, we don’t know how this will play out,” Snyder said. “We need to inquire as to how this will work in terms of consumer welfare, static efficiencies, innovation, industries, law firms, and the economy. One of our hopes in organizing this conference was to make progress in evaluating the state of global antitrust enforcement, to get a sense of the problems, a sense of their trajectories and to go deeply into two areas: global cartel enforcement and high-tech industries with a focus on dominance and monopolization issues.”

The conference was an opportunity for a high-quality and focused, candid discussion among a small group of professionals. It included keynote speeches from Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general for criminal enforcement for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice; Diane Wood, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Massimo Motta, chief competition economist at the Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission; and Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Panels examined anti-collusion laws against domestic and foreign firms, approaches to global cartel enforcement, and developments of antitrust policies in the technology sector. Panelists included technology experts from Google, Microsoft, Toshiba, Expedia, and Ctrip as well as senior officials from India, Brazil, and the European Union.

In an opening keynote address, Brent Snyder noted that global cartel enforcement has become “an increasingly crowded environment” with the expansion of global antitrust laws.

“We find ourselves involved in international cartel investigations but we are trying to harmonize investigations that involve civil, criminal, and administrative systems that have different standards, procedures, and burdens of proof,” Brent Snyder said. “On the one hand, it creates opportunities for us to work together with other jurisdictions, but the challenge is to find ways to work together efficiently.” 

In her keynote address, Judge Wood said that it is important for antitrust enforcers to understand economic and social conditions in other countries.

“I’m interested in the underlying facts about the nature of each country’s economy and what it really meant when they decided to join the club of countries with competition laws,” Wood said. “It may be that there are more differences hiding behind these common words than we sometimes would like to think. Recognizing that fact is the first step toward bridging those differences, and the first step toward wisdom.” 

With the global growth of the high tech sector, new enforcement measures have also spread across borders, according to Sokol. However, he said, agencies need to be careful not to employ new enforcement techniques just because they’re trendy.

"You have increased harmonization in taking on cartels,” Sokol said, while "substantive single firm conduct enforcement remains elusive and it is single firm conduct where enforcers may get into trouble. Sometimes when enforcers get together, each antitrust authority wants to outdo everybody else. One might say, ‘There’s a new hot topic and I want to get in on that, too.’ What legitimates an investigation is some other agency doing it, so [enforcers] look for the same kind of case—even if the facts in their particular country don’t fit the theories of other countries.”

In a keynote address on Saturday, Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the FTC, argued that viewing convergence as a process rather than an end state could produce reason for optimism. "What U.S. antitrust enforcers and our foreign counterparts should be doing is to relentlessly pursue 'better practices' in tandem, learning from each other and from our respective experiences," she said.

Fiona Scott Morton framed the closing dialogue among enforcement officials with an analysis of how the rise of internet businesses can lead to both tremendous increases in consumer welfare and large increases in concentration. The response of competition enforcers to the same trends in technology differs across countries.

Reflecting on the two days of discussions, Fiona Scott Morton commented: “It was a great conference. I was very pleased with the participants who came, the speakers, and the quality of the discussion. I was thrilled that Brent Snyder of the Justice Department, whose job is to enforce against cartels, chose Yale to speak about the Division’s renewed focus on prosecuting higher-level executives who have been involved in breaking the law. We also had wonderful high-tech speakers. One interesting moment for me was when panelists from three big technology firms had very different perspectives on the way in which jurisdictions are coordinating, or not coordinating, their antitrust enforcement. Comments from the audience during the sessions and conversation over meals were terrific, and their quality reflected the expertise of attendees.” 

Visit session pages for video interviews with speakers, photos, and selected speakers’ remarks and related papers:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Saturday, February 20, 2016