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Thought Leaders - Competition - Economists 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Interviewees enthusiastically describe Lars Wiethaus as “wonderful to deal with” and “the best expert for follow-on damages”.

Questions & Answers

With 15 years of experience, Lars’ merger cases include Synthomer/Omnova, Karstadt/Kaufhof, the Daimler/BMW car-sharing JV, Microsoft/LinkedIn, Deutsche Börse/London Stock Exchange (intervention) and Telefónica Deutschland/E-Plus. He has worked on numerous high-profile 102 cases and those involving vertical restraints, with a particular focus on network industries and platform markets. Lars has assessed damages in multiple high-profile claims, including in the smart-card chips, automotive, trucks, beer, glass, telecoms, payment cards and online distribution sectors. He speaks at conferences and provides economics training for judges.

What attracted you to a career in competition economics?

What makes our job so interesting is that most matters touch everyone’s day-to-day life. Often enough, cases are covered by the popular press. We get a backstage ticket to explore and to understand these matters in a way only few people have a chance to.

How has the market changed since you began practising? To what extent has the demand for competition advice grown in recent years?

Competition economists have been used for targeted tasks like market definition and shares, or bidding studies, etc. These days, lawyers and economists take a more holistic approach and work in a more integrated way. Economic thinking and analyses at an early stage of a case should anticipate obstacles that lie ahead. This role of economists is now better understood and appreciated. Of course, economics has become the centrepiece of cartel litigation, and we see increasing demand for other litigation, concerning vertical restraints or other disputes that require a robust assessment of counterfactual market conditions.

What is the most interesting case you have been part of? 

Working for merging parties, Telefónica Deutschland/E-Plus for its multi-dimensionality, Microsoft/LinkedIn for its novel data-based theories of harm. Working on the intervening side, Deutsche Börse/London Stock Exchange. In private litigation: Trucks, which pushes boundaries both on the legal and economic front.

How should companies measure the risk of follow-on damages when applying for leniency?

First, the company must consider the risk of whether it had participated in an infringement of competition law from a legal perspective. If the risk is low, a company may opt not to apply for leniency. However, if there is a serious risk that a competition authority will find an infringement, the question becomes to what extent full cooperation may help for the drafting of a settlement decision. Experience and recent court judgements show that the language in the decision can have a crucial impact on the presumption and causality of any effects due to the infringement. So, the real trade-off is probably between (a) the advantage that full cooperation brings to clarify potentially misleading language in the decision and (b) retaining the benefit of contesting certain parts of a decision for the individual company, including of course, an appeal. These considerations become particularly important for companies that may legally be part of the infringement, but whose conduct may have differed substantially from others. 

To what extent would you say merger control is becoming too burdensome?

Competition authorities increasingly expect submissions to be grounded with the available data. This starts during pre-notification. Take, for example, the mergers in the retail sector. When Karstadt acquired Kaufhof, for example, the parties deployed disaggregated data from loyalty cards to define catchment areas of each store, and to analyse overlaps and shares in over 4,000 local markets. In-depth data work during pre-notification facilitated the clearance of the merger in Phase 1. Key is that the parties’ data work can be easily understood and replicated by a competition authority. Such analyses can be burdensome. But it improves competition authorities’ confidence in the submission and ultimately accommodates clearing in Phase 1. 

How has covid-19 affected your practice? What new issues are being raised as a result of this pandemic? 

There two main themes. First, there is a debate whether merger policy should become more lenient to accommodate necessary restructuring and exiting of inefficient firms. Caution is warranted though in an environment in which we see more and more evidence of increasing profit margins which may, in part, be caused by too lenient merger policy. Of course, we do have the tool of failing firm defences which can be applied to failures caused by covid-19. The second big issue is state aid. It should play a role in sectors experiencing a temporary shock, rather than a permanent shock. This rule can be difficult to apply though – think of airlines. We need to critically ask ourselves why tax payers should bail out certain sectors that might be in need of restructuring anyway. It will be interesting to see how courts assess the appeals by those airlines that have not received, or received as much, aid. 

How can competition policy facilitate sustainability initiatives?

Policy makers should increasingly consider sustainability as a feature of consumer welfare, like price, quality and innovation. We have seen the first steps in that direction. The Bundeskartellamt supported Initiative Tierwohl acknowledging survey-based evidence of consumers’ preferences. The Autorité de la Concurrence imposed commitments on Nespresso. The European Commission sent a statement of objectives to car producers for colluding on emission control systems. Coordinated approaches to enhance sustainability should not be prohibited. In merger control, too, sustainability can be considered as a factor of consumer welfare. Special scrutiny might be warranted in acquisitions of start-ups with a strong sustainability agenda, especially if it such an acquisition would “kill” a competitive threat due to a firm’s sustainability agenda.

Global Leader

Competition - Economists 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Interviewees enthusiastically describe Lars Wiethaus as “wonderful to deal with” and “the best expert for follow-on damages”.

Peers and clients say:
"Lars is a very versatile economist, equally experienced in European Commission cases as in the German market."
"He is fantastic to work with and provides great insight. Importantly, he is user-friendly for the client and very responsive."

Biography

Dr Lars Wiethaus joined CRA as a vice president in June 2016 and splits his time between the Munich and Brussels offices. Previously, Lars was a director and head of the Brussels office at E.CA Economics. He started his career with LECG (Evans/Padilla group) in London.

With 15 years of consulting experience, Lars advised on numerous complex transactions including Synthomer/Omnova, Karstadt/Galaria Kaufhof, Daimler/BMW Car Sharing JV, Microsoft/LinkedIn, Deutsche Börse/London Stock Exchange (third-party), Telefónica Deutschland/E-Plus, Immonet/Immowelt, Liberty/Kabel BW, Swisscom/SRG/Ringier, Six/PayLife and Portugal Telecom/Sonaecom. He has worked on a large variety of article 102 cases and those involving vertical restraints, with a particular focus on network industries and platform markets. Lars has ample litigation experience, covering both defendants’ and claimants’ positions in claims concerning information exchanges, cartels and vertical restraints. He has assessed damages in multiple high-profile claims, including in the steel, smart card chips, automotive, trucks, beer, glass, telecoms, payment cards, and online distribution sector. He has advised on various regulatory matters in the field of telecommunications and energy. Lars is particularly experienced in cases concerning the European Commission, the German BKartA, the Austrian BWB and the Swiss WEKO. Lars has served as an expert at court.

Lars is a co-editor of the Journal of European Competition Law and Practice. He has published widely in economics and law journals including the International Journal of Industrial Organization, Telecommunication Policy, Review of Industrial Organization, Information Economics and Policy, Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Journal of European Competition Law and Practice, and Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb. Lars regularly speaks at conferences and competition law seminars and provides economics training for judges.

Alternative address: Leopoldstr. 8-12, 80802 Munich. Tel: +49 89 20183 6352.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Lars Wiethaus impresses peers and clients alike with his “clear analytical style, no-nonsense approach and ability to cut through the weeds”.

Biography

Dr Lars Wiethaus joined CRA as a vice president in June 2016 and splits his time between the Munich and Brussels offices. Previously, Lars was a director and head of the Brussels office at E.CA Economics. He started his career with LECG (Evans/Padilla group) in London.

With 15 years of consulting experience, Lars advised on numerous complex transactions including Synthomer/Omnova, Karstadt/Galaria Kaufhof, Daimler/BMW Car Sharing JV, Microsoft/LinkedIn, Deutsche Börse/London Stock Exchange (third-party), Telefónica Deutschland/E-Plus, Immonet/Immowelt, Liberty/Kabel BW, Swisscom/SRG/Ringier, Six/PayLife and Portugal Telecom/Sonaecom. He has worked on a large variety of article 102 cases and those involving vertical restraints, with a particular focus on network industries and platform markets. Lars has ample litigation experience, covering both defendants’ and claimants’ positions in claims concerning information exchanges, cartels and vertical restraints. He has assessed damages in multiple high-profile claims, including in the steel, smart card chips, automotive, trucks, beer, glass, telecoms, payment cards, and online distribution sector. He has advised on various regulatory matters in the field of telecommunications and energy. Lars is particularly experienced in cases concerning the European Commission, the German BKartA, the Austrian BWB and the Swiss WEKO. Lars has served as an expert at court. 

Lars is a co-editor of the Journal of European Competition Law and Practice. He has published widely in economics and law journals including the International Journal of Industrial Organization, Telecommunication Policy, Review of Industrial Organization, Information Economics and Policy, Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Journal of European Competition Law and Practice, and Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb. Lars regularly speaks at conferences and competition law seminars and provides economics training for judges.

Alternative address: Leopoldstr. 8-12, 80802 Munich. Tel: +49 89 20183 6352.

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