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Clifford Chance Global Antitrust Trends: politicisation and digital economy pose risks as regulators up policing and enforcement

April 15, 2019

Clifford Chance Global Antitrust Trends: politicisation and digital economy pose risks as regulators up policing and enforcement

International law firm Clifford Chance has published its annual Global Antitrust Trends report today, identifying global themes and antitrust challenges that are most relevant to international businesses.

This year's report offers insights on four major antitrust themes that will have significant implications to businesses and M&A environment around the world, in light of growing political tensions, development of the digital economy and increasing regulatory scrutiny.

1. Merger Control – antitrust authorities across the EU as well as in China are getting tougher on gun-jumping violation cases. New rules, new agencies and new policies are emerging across jurisdictions to modernise and strengthen merger review processes. There are also new ideas about which mergers harm competition that could create fresh obstacles for future deals.

2. Enforcement – while the European Commission's €4.34 billion antitrust fine on Google broke the world record, a number of Asia-Pacific authorities have also imposed their highest ever fines in the past year. At the same time, authorities are expanding their tools to improve efficiency in handling the increased amount of antitrust cases and there is growing competition between European venues to attract damages claims.

3. The Digital Economy – as the digital economy evolves while online platforms gain further market power, antitrust authorities are intensifying their focus on the tech sector and refining their thinking on the role of data in antitrust infringements and merger assessments. Regulators in various jurisdictions are putting forward new plans and special task forces to police tech companies.

4. Politicisation – the global trend of increased politicisation of M&A and antitrust continues. From the US to the EU, the scope of deals raising national security concerns has expanded in recent years, posing further risks for infrastructure, technology and data-driven transactions. In Europe, proposals to allow politicians to override competition laws are gaining traction, reflecting a shift in the EU’s centre of gravity.

Thomas Vinje, Chairman of Clifford Chance Global Antitrust Group comments:

"Antitrust is making headlines. We are seeing tougher enforcement against mergers and anticompetitive conduct on all continents, driven by a growing public and political consensus that more should be done to curb market power. The antitrust horizon is particularly foreboding for big tech players, with numerous jurisdictions planning more stringent regulation. Sophisticated compliance will be required to achieve and maintain a competitive edge in the coming year.  "

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