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Thought Leaders - Competition - Economists 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Barbara Veronese is “a top-notch economist” who is singled out by sources as “very skilled” in data analysis.

Questions & Answers

Dr Veronese provides economic advice on mergers, antitrust, regulation and damages to private and public-sector clients. She advises on national and EU-wide matters, across a range of jurisdictions including on financial markets, communications, transport, energy, food beverages, chemicals, cement, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, rentals and retailing. Her expert work and reports feature before competition agencies, regulators, the appeal and high court in Italy, the EU General Court and the Dutch, UK and Italian ordinary courts.

What inspired you to pursue a career in competition economics?

I guess that first I figured that specialised economic consulting would be the best fit for putting my acquired academic competencies (and the disciplines I found more interesting) to work: econometrics, micro, game theory. Competition gradually took the first step on the podium as it proved to be the most natural match for me, but regulatory and other work (eg, commercial disputes) are still in my basket. 

How have you seen the role of competition economist develop since you first began practising?

Simplifying a fair bit, my view on the past two decades is that a) we became “more American” – that is more PhDs in economics in consulting, more data and related quantitative assessments, more damages – and b) we are now more trusted and more frequent partners for law firms than before in competition matters. Also, in the space of the public enforcement agencies I believe we have taken up a more impactful role. This makes a lot of sense with the growing interplay of public and private enforcement.

What has been the most memorable case you have worked on to date, and why?

I think I am bound to pick a merger control case and share the why. It was a long and winding road, and after each bend the destination looked a bit further away and the path a bit steeper. Our team reacted in the only way we could, increasing analytical rigour and sticking to robust economics. The dedication of the team, colleagues I am unboundedly proud of, and the quality of their massive efforts was eventually well recognised externally too.

You work across a variety of industries. To what extent is sector-specific knowledge important on the part of the economist?

Familiarity with markets and sectors, especially when there are regulatory constraints and abundant jargon, does make life easier. We can be faster, recognise features of cases that centre on the same fundamental issues even if they surface at different times and places. Also, if you are (in a team with) an expert in a sector, you will have a network of relationships with key stakeholders and information holders, and this adds value. Yet, I’d like to add that my experience suggests there are no issues venturing into new sectors and product spaces if you are prepared to gather the relevant facts and find good partners in the business and outside counsel for that quest. One can be effective even on the very first case in a particular sector. On balance, I have a sense that sector-specific knowledge provides insight but is, at times, oversold. Being able to engage on facts with the business and the ability of reading accurately “any” factual basis comes first to my mind in boosting the chances of a successful collaboration with the economist(s) on the case.

To what extent is antitrust becoming more politicised?

A lot has been done to keep enforcers independent, though we should never be complacent. I do not perceive more politics. I am happy that merger control is still capable of saying resounding NOs at EU level, if there are good grounds, however vocal certain politicians become.

This question also makes me think of some past remarks by the Competition Commissioner at a conference. I think it is a good thing that “in politics” we talk about antitrust, it should be political if it is relevant. 

How does Oxera distinguish itself from competitors?

I could mention various things, including Oxera’s proven ability to change and grow over time while keeping robust delivery for clients and, internally, a strong sense of identity and adherence to its core values of quality and integrity, little churn in staff, the exotic choice of Oxford… (I’ve been in Italy for more than a decade now, but once a Londoner forever a Londoner). I will pick what impressed me most personally, and that’s the power of people coming together with different perspectives, specialisation and experiences. Good or even excellent individual experts can turn into a collegial force of nature if the mood is collaboration, and here it is. As a result, clients are supported by a team that can unpick even the most complex economic issues and always add insight.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

Early on, when I had no idea about my future in the competition economics space as a consultant and enforcer, I was walking past a canal in Venice with my thesis professor and mentor Marco LiCalzi. I was then a fresh graduate in economics from the excellent, if a bit rough with students, Ca’ Foscari University. His advice was to avoid waste, to be careful not to hide and bury my talents. In other words, a simple “go for it” made a lot of impact at the right time for me, and I am very grateful for that piece of advice (and subsequent ones).

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
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