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Doing Business in Europe? Know Your Competition Law

A senior business leader recently gave me high praise—for the compliance business, at least. “You’ve done a great job brainwashing us about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” he said. “Now you have to do the same with EU Competition Law.”

That executive, a European, knew what he was talking about. Working across the Atlantic, he had a front-row seat to watch a parade of massive fines imposed in recent years by the European Commission under the leadership of competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

And yet, we’ve lately seen signs of a somewhat more moderate approach to enforcement of European competition law (more commonly called antitrust law in the United States). The European Parliament, concerned about high unemployment and eager not to inhibit economic expansion, has urged the European Commission to pursue an approach more about incentive than about punishment. And the flamboyant Kroes was succeeded several months ago by a...

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