Kris Van Hove has been practising competition law for 25 years at Van Bael & Bellis, where he has been a partner since 2001. His practice covers all aspects of competition law, with particular expertise in cartels, merger control, dominant positions, distribution, technology transfer and litigation before EU and national courts. Kris’s notable experience includes the appeals to the EU General Court which led to the annulment of respective Commission decisions in CISAC and Airfreight.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING IN COMPETITION LAW?
What I enjoy most in competition law is the great variety that it brings to my daily practice. It applies across all business sectors and constantly evolves in search of answers to the newest trends and challenges in the economy. Digitisation is a good example. Social media; e-commerce; digital platforms; big data; algorithms and machine learning; the internet of things; blockchain; and even privacy are the new frontiers of competition law.
HOW HAS THE INTERNATIONALISATION OF BUSINESS CHANGED THE PRACTICE OF COMPETITION LAW?
When I started practising 25 years ago, competition law was an area governed pre-dominantly by EU and US law. The scene is very different today with competition law regimes in place and enforced in most economies around the world. In the EU alone, each of the 28 member states has its own set of rules and an active national competition law enforcer. The same is true in other parts of the world such as Asia and Latin America. Despite laudable efforts by organisations such as the OECD, UNCTAD and the ICN, these competition law regimes are not harmonised. As business is more global than ever, this means that companies must be made aware that an assessment for one jurisdiction may not be valid or cannot be automatically replicated for another jurisdiction. Today’s competition law practitioner must be at the client’s side to work out practical solutions with colleagues from other jurisdictions that satisfy the needs and requirements of the client in order to help advance their business interests.
HOW HAS THE DEVELOPMENT OF LENIENCY AND SETTLEMENT PROCEEDINGS AFFECTED YOUR APPROACH TO CARTEL CASES IN RECENT YEARS?
In the EU, leniency and settlement are two different procedures. Leniency is an intelligence-gathering tool allowing an enforcer to detect cartels through cooperation volunteered by an insider in exchange for a reduction in or even immunity from sanctions. Settlement is a case-resolution mechanism allowing the enforcer to close a cartel investigation on the basis of an acknowledgment of infringement in exchange of a further reduction in the fine. Both procedures are now firmly established at EU level and in most EU member states, and have become the principal instruments in the cartel enforcement tool box. But recently, both procedures have lost some of their attractiveness because of the dramatic increase in the exposure to damage claims following on from cartel decisions. This is very different from 25 years ago when cases were initiated ex officio by DG Competition and the substance of most of its decisions was challenged in the EU Courts.
BRUSSELS IS AN INCREDIBLY COMPETITIVE MARKET FOR THIS AREA OF LAW – HOW DOES THE FIRM ENSURE IT STANDS OUT AMONG COMPETITORS?
What truly defines Van Bael & Bellis and makes it unique among its peers in the Brussels competition community is the exceptional team that we have built as well as the combination of top-quality service and independence. Top-quality service is at the core of the firm’s mission and independence allows it to adapt swiftly to the needs of the market. More than this, our team includes lawyers from a number of different countries with a broad range of jurisdictional experience, allowing us to access a network of “the best of the best” whenever a case demands it. This has enabled the firm to be at the vanguard of competition law defence and to be involved in many landmark cases in this area for over 30 years.
HOW HAS THE IMPORTANCE OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS IN COMPETITION CASES EVOLVED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER?
When I started my career in the early 1990s, economic analysis played hardly any role in EU competition law. The law was governed by an extensive regulatory framework inventorying permissible and impermissible conduct. When an effects-based approach took a more prominent place in the application of competition law, economic analysis gained importance. Today, it is a standard component in many large-scale competition law cases and investigations.
HOW DO YOU SEE EU COMPETITION LAW PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE COMING YEARS?
In the years to come, I expect competition law practice in the EU, as in other parts of the world, to be impacted by increased private enforcement, expanding global enforcement and increased merger control.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Be patient and persevere, as in adversity opportunities often appear greatest.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS?
Success can be measured and expressed in many different ways but one I value dearly is the extent to which clients can be served and the work product can be delivered through teamwork. I have had the fortune and privilege to benefit from the advice and support of my colleagues at Van Bael & Bellis to whom I am greatly indebted.
Kris Van Hove is a “very knowledgeable and thorough” competition lawyer known for his top-notch work on an array of matters from investigations to merger control and litigation.
Kris Van Hove is a partner in Van Bael & Bellis’ Brussels office.
He specialises in competition law, with particular expertise in cartels, merger control, dominant market positions, distribution and technology transfer. Kris also specialises in regulatory matters in the area of aviation law.
Kris’s practice covers a wide variety of sectors, including financial data, car parts, aviation, consumer products, basic industries, steel, energy, chemicals, construction equipment, building materials, electronics, music, and information and communications technology.
He handles notifications and investigations as well as litigation before the EU and national courts.
Kris’s notable experience includes the appeal to the EU General Court that led to the annulment of the Commission CISAC decision.
Kris has extensive experience in representing clients in cartel defence cases, including leniency and settlement proceedings and litigation. He led the team that assisted one of the parties in the Commission’s first-ever direct settlement case (DRAM). Since then, he has been involved in several other settlement procedures (such as automotive bearings) and standard procedures (such as smart card chips). Kris acted as counsel for Japan Airlines in the proceeding before the EU General Court which overturned the Commission 2010 Air Freight decision and annulled Japan Airlines’ €35.7 million fine. He was part of the team that received the Global Competition Review Matter of the Year award in 2016 for his involvement in the case, which also won the American Lawyer’s Global Dispute of the Year: International Litigation award for 2016. In 2017, Global Competition Review 100 noted Kris as one of “the firm’s lawyers [who] excel in European court appeals stemming from DG Comp decisions”. Kris was named as one of 20 of the world’s foremost competition practitioners by WWL Thought Leaders: Competition for 2018 and again for 2019.
He regularly lectures and writes on competition law matters.
Kris completed his LLM at Duke University. He holds a postgraduate degree in European law from the Sorbonne (Paris II) and a degree in law from the University of Leuven (KUL). He is a member of the Brussels Bar.