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2006 Annual Competition Litigation Conference

The British Institute held its Annual Competition Litigation Conference on 3 February 2006 for the first public presentation by the European Commission of its Green Paper on Damages Actions for Breach of EC Antitrust Rules. The conference brought together lawyers, economists, academics and students; its speakers represented a mix of distinguished experts in the field of EU and national competition law. SJ Berwin provided the sponsorship for the event.

The programme was broken into four sessions, all chaired by Stephen Kon of SJ Berwin.

The speakers for Session 1 included Marion Simmons QC of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, Vincent Smith of the OFT and Polly Weitzman of Ofcom, as well as Paul Lasock QC, Mark Hoskins and Sam Szlezinger. Together they provided a detailed overview of the CAT's cases over the last year; they focused mainly on jurisdictional and procedural issues although the CAT's review of the OFT and the sectoral regulators was also discussed.

Session 2 brought together the following speakers: Donncadh Woods of the European Commission, Vincent Smith of the OFT and Joseph Simons of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This session provided the first public overview of the Green Paper on Damages, as well as a critical evaluation of whether the reforms envisaged by the Commission would work in practice or not. The experience of US litigators in this area was considered particularly useful.

For session 3 various speakers from Germany (Alexander Rinne), Spain (Javier Ruiz Calzado), the UK (Peter Roth QC), France (Marc Levy) and the Netherlands (Weijer VerLoren van Themaat) presented a summary of the main caselaw developments in their respective jurisdictions over the past year. These speakers assessed primarily whether private enforcement was working in practice.

For the final session the conference participants considered a litigation scenario and various aspects in bringing an antitrust suit in the EU. Panelists from the EU (Mike Walker and Lesley Farrell), the US (Aidan Synnott) and from industry in general (Simon Persoff) provided their perspectives on evidence gathering; jurisdiction; procedural aspects; damages and injunctions; and conflicts arising in the context of a cartel involving the cartel offence and civil leniency.

The discussions of each panel were recorded and will appear later this year, along with the transcripts of other CLF conferences on Mergers, Article 82, and Trans-Atlantic Antitrust issues, in Current Competition Law Vol. V, the British Institute's yearbook on competition law.

Private enforcement of competition law is currently being encouraged in the EU by the European Commission and other competition authorities. The Commission recently published a Green Paper on Damages Actions; it wishes to receive replies to this document before 21 April 2006. The British Institute's Competition Law Forum itself has set up a working group, chaired by Richard Eccles of Bird & Bird, London, to respond to the issues highlighted in the Green Paper. This working group will complete its work in early March.

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