Recent EU-level efforts to harmonize the agenda of the European Commission will impact on the regional competition law landscape, including in the Nordics. In addition to regulatory changes, a new Commissioner for Competition will strive to integrate antitrust enforcement with the wider goals of the European Union, according to Kristian Hugmark, Roschier’s new Partner in the firm’s EU & Competition team.
Hugmark, whose work has focused on EU & competition law, says the European Commission’s integrated and more focused approach to competition enforcement in the areas of cartels, dominance and mergers, could spur more activity on the part of local competition authorities.
“In the Nordic legal profession everyone is expecting more activity from the competition authorities, especially in Sweden. The authority is already a strong enforcer in mergers, but they also want to be strong on cartels,” Hugmark notes.
Based in Brussels for 13 years before joining Roschier, Hugmark's core practice is competition law and in particular mergers and cartels. However, many of his assignments at the epicenter of the EU also focused on regulatory work and general EU law.
His briefs have extended across many industries such as pharmaceuticals, telecoms and consumer goods but he says he has a special relationship with the maritime and aviation sectors.
New Competition Commissioner to adjust focus
The Roschier Partner says the appointment in November 2014 of a new Commissioner for Competition will have repercussions across the region and in the Nordics. He points out that Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is likely to be more than a cartel chaser.
“This always brings some changes. There will for example be a focus on e-commerce and building digital commerce within the Union. There will be moves to eliminate roadblocks to digital trade between EU member states,” Hugmark comments.
However, he notes that legal practitioners can still expect to see interesting investigations such as cases involving Google, but the enforcement priorities will align closely with the overall agenda of the European Commission.
"The growing importance of competition law and the complex challenges following the new digital era will create a new landscape. Kristian Hugmark's long experience from Brussels adds significant strengths to Roschier and gives us a strong competitive advantage," adds Lars Johansson, senior competition Partner in the firm's Stockholm office.
Hugmark observes that initiatives from the European Commission in Brussels will set the stage for trends such as increased cooperation among regional competition authorities. This in turn will require firms to develop strong competition practices, while companies would do well to consider that the cost of non-compliance far exceeds the effort required to remain on the right side of the law.
“Companies will therefore need to consider implementing smart programs that work, not just on paper and to implement preventive and remedial measures,” the new Roschier Partner remarks.
Hugmark points out that while Roschier already has strong cross-border capabilities, he looks forward to reinforcing its status in Nordic and EU competition law and as a premier legal services partner in the region.
Christian Wik, Partner and Head of the firm's EU & Competition practice agrees.
"Competition law being based on similar principles across Europe, and the Nordic enforcers having similar enforcement priorities, the Roschier cross-border competition team can work together and provide broad knowledge and resources in all major anti-trust matters," he concludes.