Following the resignation of Melanie Aitken as Commissioner of Competition, the federal government announced on September 26, 2012 that John Pecman would serve as Interim Commissioner of Competition for up to one year. Pecman, most recently Senior Deputy Commissioner – Criminal Matters Branch, has worked at the Bureau for almost thirty years and served in every enforcement branch. In his role as head of the criminal matters branch, he was responsible for enforcing (among other things) the price fixing and bid-rigging provisions of the Competition Act.
Pecman has significant experience with merger enforcement, having been the lead officer in one of the longest-running merger cases brought by the Bureau: its challenge to the Superior Propane transaction. That case is noteworthy for having tested the efficiency provisions found in section 96 of the Act, which prevent the Competition Tribunal from taking action against a merger that is, or is likely to, result in gains in efficiency that will be greater than, and will offset, the anticompetitive effects of the merger.
Traditionally, the Senior Deputy Commisioner – Mergers Branch serves in the absence of the Commissioner of Competition, but because the current head of mergers, Kelly McKinnon, has only been in that post since early August, Pecman’s appointment is a sound choice. He is an experienced manager with a solid enforcement record, is known to be pragmatic and practical, and is well regarded both domestically and internationally.
Pecman’s appointment is for “up to” one year, which suggests that the government may well take its time to conduct an exhaustive search for the next commissioner.