Almunia gives Sims a reason to smile
In comments which resonate with the recent statements from the antipodes, EC Commissioner Joaquin Almunia (in this recent GCR interview) has stressed the benefits of the DG Comp’s merger pre-notification process, but has agreed that the timeframes for the process leave something to be desired.
The comments give weight to Rod Sims’ comments in a speech earlier this year. The ACCC Chairman noted (for the benefit of ‘some competition lawyers’ who might want a more formal process) that any move towards more formal processes like those overseas would be likely, in his opinion, to increase the time taken to review deals.
In one very pointed question from journalist David Vascott, Almunia was asked what he could do to improve the increasingly lengthy process for merger approval. The EC merger control process sets strict deadlines to make a decision on a proposed merger once it is formally notified. Voluntary pre-notification allows for companies to get the deal considered early and gives time for the EC to request, and companies to provide, all the information the EC thinks it needs without the pressure of a looming deadline. The result has been an informal process which lawyers in the EC complain can take several months.
Among stressing the benefits, and noting the role of companies in determining how smoothly the process runs, Almunia did acknowledge that the process can be improved and that he’s willing to hear suggestions. We suspect Sims will be filing that away for the next time formal processes are mentioned.