Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law
Jean-François Bellis
Office:
Glaverbel Building
Chaussée de la Hulpe 166 Terhulpsesteenweg
B-1170
City:
Brussels
Country:
Belgium
Tel:
+32 2 647 73 50
Fax:
+32 2 640 64 99

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Competition

Jean-François Bellis is a founding partner of Van Bael & Bellis in Brussels. He has acted for clients in numerous landmark EU competition law cases, including United Brands, AKZO, Michelin, Woodpulp, Microsoft, Airfreight and Intel. He also lectures on EU competition law at the Institute of European Studies of the University of Brussels (ULB). In February 2011, Global Competition Review granted him a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his longstanding involvement in the field.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN COMPETITION LAW? 

I discovered EU competition law as a student when it was still in its early stages of development. I found the interaction between law and economics inherent in competition law fascinating. The fact that EU competition law originated in US antitrust law was another attractive feature of this field of law in view of its international context and implications.

TO WHAT EXTENT IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY THAT THE DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR COMPETITION IS AT THE CUTTING EDGE OF COMPETITION REGULATION? 

Over time, the EU Commission has taken the mantle of the world’s most powerful and influential competition authority. In a large number of cases, we notice that the parties are anxious to see how the EU Commission will react as its approach to antitrust law is seen as the toughest in the world.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING COMPETITION LAWYERS? 

Keep an eye on new developments in competition law thinking and theory around the world and, whatever side you are on, never give up.

YOU WERE ONCE A CLERK AT THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE. AT SUCH AN EARLY STAGE IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT VALUABLE LESSONS DID YOU LEARN THERE? 

Seeing, in close proximity, how EU judges worked gave me useful insights into how best to present a case to a multinational panel of judges coming from different national legal systems. Lawyers appearing before the European Court of Justice must be able to craft legal arguments that will appeal to judges regardless of their national legal background. There is a need for simplification and clarity beyond what is expected at the national domestic level.

IS AN ALIGNED EU COMPETITION FRAMEWORK IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF ALL MEMBER STATES? 

I think the system put in place by Regulation 1/2003 is most efficient as it allows the EU Commission to rely on national competition authorities to apply EU competition law at the national and local level. It is in the interest of both business and consumers that competition law rules are broadly similar throughout the EU.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INTERESTING CARTEL CASE YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

The Woodpulp case, in which the EU Court of Justice appointed economic experts to assess the soundness of the economic analysis put forward by the Commission to justify its decision. My personal contribution to the successful outcome of the case was to ensure that the expert team to be appointed by the Court included an industrial economist with deep knowledge of the wood pulp sector. The economic report prepared by the experts found that there was no need to resort to conspiracy allegations to explain how the wood pulp industry worked, contrary to what the Commission had claimed in its decision. We won the case without having to argue it.

IS THERE TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE IN COMPETITION MATTERS IN THE EU? 

The EU Commission is rather free from interference by member states. Of course, the EU Commission is itself a political institution and has its own political interest in bringing certain cases. This is especially true in big abuse of dominance cases, which often present a political angle with the Commission seeking to project an image of power and authority over multinational giants.

YOU HAVE ACHIEVED SO MUCH IN YOUR CAREER. WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU COULD GO NEXT? 

To be frank, I am not thinking of going anywhere. As EU competition law continues to evolve and face new challenges, I feel I still have much to do in my current position.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Competition: Lawyers

Jean-François Bellis is a founding partner of Van Bael & Bellis in Brussels. He has acted for clients in numerous landmark EU competition law cases, including United Brands, AKZO, Michelin, Woodpulp, Microsoft, Airfreight and Intel. He also lectures on EU competition law at the Institute of European Studies of the University of Brussels (ULB). In February 2011, Global Competition Review granted him a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his longstanding involvement in the field.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN COMPETITION LAW? 

I discovered EU competition law as a student when it was still in its early stages of development. I found the interaction between law and economics inherent in competition law fascinating. The fact that EU competition law originated in US antitrust law was another attractive feature of this field of law in view of its international context and implications.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INTERESTING CARTEL CASE YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

The Woodpulp case, in which the EU Court of Justice appointed economic experts to assess the soundness of the economic analysis put forward by the Commission to justify its decision. My personal contribution to the successful outcome of the case was to ensure that the expert team to be appointed by the Court included an industrial economist with deep knowledge of the wood pulp sector. The economic report prepared by the experts found that there was no need to resort to conspiracy allegations to explain how the wood pulp industry worked, contrary to what the Commission had claimed in its decision. We won the case without having to argue it.

TO WHAT EXTENT IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY THAT THE DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR COMPETITION IS AT THE CUTTING EDGE OF COMPETITION REGULATION? 

Over time, the EU Commission has taken the mantle of the world’s most powerful and influential competition authority. In a large number of cases, we notice that the parties are anxious to see how the EU Commission will react as its approach to antitrust law is seen as the toughest in the world.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING COMPETITION LAWYERS? 

Keep an eye on new developments in competition law thinking and theory around the world and, whatever side you are on, never give up.

YOU WERE ONCE A CLERK AT THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE. AT SUCH AN EARLY STAGE IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT VALUABLE LESSONS DID YOU LEARN THERE? 

Seeing, in close proximity, how EU judges worked gave me useful insights into how best to present a case to a multinational panel of judges coming from different national legal systems. Lawyers appearing before the European Court of Justice must be able to craft legal arguments that will appeal to judges regardless of their national legal background. There is a need for simplification and clarity beyond what is expected at the national domestic level.

IS AN ALIGNED EU COMPETITION FRAMEWORK IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF ALL MEMBER STATES? 

I think the system put in place by Regulation 1/2003 is most efficient as it allows the EU Commission to rely on national competition authorities to apply EU competition law at the national and local level. It is in the interest of both business and consumers that competition law rules are broadly similar throughout the EU.

IS THERE TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE IN COMPETITION MATTERS IN THE EU? 

The EU Commission is rather free from interference by member states. Of course, the EU Commission is itself a political institution and has its own political interest in bringing certain cases. This is especially true in big abuse of dominance cases, which often present a political angle with the Commission seeking to project an image of power and authority over multinational giants.

YOU HAVE ACHIEVED SO MUCH IN YOUR CAREER. WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU COULD GO NEXT? 

To be frank, I am not thinking of going anywhere next. As EU competition law continues to evolve and face new challenges, I feel I still have much to do in my current position.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Competition: Lawyers

Jean-François Bellis is the managing partner of Van Bael & Bellis. In 1975, he started his practice in Brussels, specialising in EU competition and EU trade law. From 1979 to 1980, he served as legal secretary to Lord Mackenzie Stuart at the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg. In 1986, he co-founded Van Bael & Bellis.

In the field of competition law, Jean-François assists international clients in cases at both the EU and the national level. He regularly advises on all aspects of competition law with particular expertise in a broad range of antitrust issues, including cartels, dominant market positions, mergers, distribution and licensing. He has extensive litigation experience and has been involved in a large number of major competition cases before the European Commission, the EU Courts and in national proceedings. Notable cases include, among many others, Microsoft, Intel, CISAC, LCD Panels and Airfreight.

Jean-François is one of the most renowned legal practitioners in his field and is recognised by all legal directories. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Global Competition Review (GCR) in recognition of his long-standing experience in the field of competition law and an Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession Award from Chambers & Partners.

He has written numerous books and articles on antitrust issues and has spoken at several international conferences and seminars. Notably, he is the editor and key contributor to Van Bael & Bellis’ leading treatise Competition Law of the European Community (Kluwer, fifth edition), a book that is considered a standard work of reference. He is also a professor of EU competition law at the Institute of European Studies of the University of Brussels.

Jean-François completed his LLM at the University of Michigan and holds a degree in law from the University of Brussels (ULB). He is a member of the Brussels Bar.

WWL says: Jean-François Bellis continues to be regarded as “one of the stars of the field” and one of the foremost competition practitioners in the world.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Competition which can be purchased from our Shop.

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