“Unite Yourselves but Do Not Cartel”: European Business Associations As the Hidden Roots of Trusts?

Friday, June 24, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
119 Moses (Moses Hall)
Sylvain Laurens, EHESS, Paris, France
Many European Court of Justice convictions in antitrust cases mention the role played by the more important European business associations in the formation of cartels (such as CEFIC or EFPIA). Very often illegal agreements are made during or after the meetings and social events held by these associations. Yet these interest groups are never convicted while heavy fines are imposed on the companies. The hypothesis of this paper is that this apparent paradox can only be understood if we grasp the role played by business associations in the daily production of EU public policies. As part of the regulatory production has historically been outsourced to these associations, European Commission civil servants make sure not to penalize organizations that have bolstered their administration’s legitimacy in economic matters and still provide syntheses on the views of the largest corporations in each economic sector. Based on European Commission archives, analysis of Court of Justice judgments, as well as interviews and observations of meetings of these associations, this paper will show how the EU's political system has produced a very specific anti-trust policy that tends to obscure what makes cartels real.