With the tension over Microsoft's unrequited bid for Yahoo quietly building last week, there were several interesting developments and comments...
With the tension over Microsoft‘s unrequited bid for Yahoo quietly building last week, there were several interesting developments and comments in the world of antitrust regulation. Consider this a very early pre-race analysis of an upcoming event in the Microsoft-Yahoo acquisition Olympics: The 400-meter regulatory hurdles.
On Friday, a trio of top antitrust-enforcement officials from both sides of the Atlantic addressed the American Bar Association and basically pledged a role reversal.
The European Union’s top antitrust watchdog, Neelie Kroes, took a more conciliatory tone in her remarks, belying the tough stance her agency has taken against Microsoft and Intel.
Meanwhile, departing Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras and Thomas Barnett, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, both said their agencies are willing to fight mergers in court — apparently contrary to popular opinion.
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Kroes sought to counter perceptions that European regulators are “anti-business, and socialist even,” The Associated Press reported.
“We, in Europe, are not that different from you — we’re all in this together so let’s keep talking to each other and questioning each other and remembering why we believe in competition in the first place,” Kroes said, according to a Reuters report. She added, that she was “probably more capitalist than most of you in this room.”
That comment might produce derisive chuckles from certain corporate legal departments we know. Then again, maybe there’s a new leaf turning.
She also had harsh words for the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, a flowing font of criticism toward European regulators.
“If you believe what you read on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, there’s a canal in Amsterdam that I would like to sell you,” said Kroes, a native of The Netherlands.
On the U.S. front, The AP noted that analysts have suggested companies get their merger deals done before the Bush administration exits at the end of this year, the presumption being that the next administration would bring with it a harsher enforcement regime.
Majoras said the FTC doesn’t plan to slow down its enforcement efforts between now and the arrival of a new administration.
In other FTC news, her replacement as chairman of the commission is William Kovacic, a prominent pundit and legal expert during the historic Microsoft antitrust trial. In fact, in a 2001 review of the major players in that trial, we wrote this about him: “In a case filled with talking heads who served as daily analysts of the trial, he may have been the most quoted.”
To round out the developments in the world of global business regulation, The New York Times reported on China’s new antimonopoly law, set to take effect in August, which will “extend the nation’s economic influence far beyond its borders.”
It strengthens antitrust laws originally put on the books in 1993 — the same year, coincidentally, that Microsoft entered the Chinese market.
The law allows Chinese regulators to scrutinize mergers of foreign companies that involve a Chinese subsidiary. Alibaba.com, the Chinese e-commerce site that Yahoo invested in, brings the Microsoft proposal into play. As part of its investor presentation earlier this month, Yahoo noted the value of its Asia assets, including its stake in Alibaba, which it pegged at $2.25 a share.
All eyes will turn to China as it weighs the decision to jump into the global antitrust regulation ring … soon to be a three-ring circus?
On the record
Awards: Seattle digital media studio Smashing Ideas has been recognized with several awards in the Web Marketing Association’s annual Internet Advertising Competition.
New products: Healia, a Seattle health-search engine, has launched Healia Communities, a social network enabling people to get support from others and health professionals.
Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or email@example.com.