Professor Mark Patterson Exchanges Antitrust Knowledge with Italian Competition Authority

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This spring, Fordham Law Professor Mark R. Patterson is spending part of his sabbatical working at the Italian Competition Authority in Rome. Patterson, a co-director of the Fordham Center on European Union Law, previously served as a visiting professor at Bocconi University in Milan during the 2011 and 2015 spring semesters and as a visiting fellow at the European University Institute in Florence from September 2006 to June 2007.

Patterson recently spoke with the Fordham Law newsroom about his current work, how U.S. and European antitrust law compare, and what he hopes to bring back to Fordham from his latest experience in Italy. 

How did you connect with the Italian Competition Authority (the Autoritá Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato)? Did your previous experiences in Florence and Milan play any part in your current opportunity?

I had met the president of the authority, Giovanni Pitruzzella, and one of its commissioners, Gabriella Muscolo, several times at Fordham’s annual antitrust conferences and at conferences in Europe. At one of these conferences President Pitruzzella and I discussed doing an informal exchange. As a result, President Pitruzzella came to Fordham for a week last fall, where he delivered a talk in connection with our Center on EU Law and taught two sessions of my Antitrust Law course, which covers both U.S. and EU law. The second part of the exchange is my current visit to the authority.

What are your responsibilities at the authority? How many months are you scheduled to be there? How is this opportunity different from your past experiences in Italy?

I am spending about two months at the authority. I don’t have official responsibilities, partly for reasons of confidentiality, but I am attending some hearings and consulting with authority staff on some of their projects, including ones on big data and algorithms in antitrust. I am also giving some seminars and talks, both at the authority and at universities in Italy.

What do you hope to impart about American law to the people you are working with? What do you hope to learn about Italian law/European law?

Antitrust law is an area in which practitioners often need expertise in multiple jurisdictions; for that reason, Barry Hawk established Fordham’s Annual Conference on International Antitrust Law and Policy more than 40 years ago. So the attorneys and economists at the Italian authority are pretty familiar with U.S. law, and I teach EU antitrust in my course, too, as I mentioned. That said, there is value on both sides, I think, in seeing through informal conversations how we each approach and think about the issues.

How would you compare antitrust law in Italy and Europe to antitrust law in America? Similarities? Differences?

Well, that’s a complicated question. It’s often said that EU antitrust law is more apt to intervene in the conduct of dominant firms, and there is at least some truth in that. The EU’s enforcement action against Google and a recent German case (and a just-initiated Italian inquiry) regarding Facebook are examples. Because my scholarship focuses on antitrust treatment of information issues, these European actions involving information platforms are particularly relevant to my work. Also, the jurisdiction of the Italian authority, like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s, covers not only antitrust but also consumer protection. Some information issues straddle those two areas, so the authority’s work is particularly interesting to me in that respect as well.

What do you hope to bring back to Fordham, both in terms of your teaching and scholarship, from this experience?

My scholarship has often addressed both U.S. and EU law, because that’s the nature of antitrust practice, but seeing things from the inside of an EU national competition authority will be useful. Also, both Professor Martin Gelter and I, as co-directors of the Law School’s Center on EU Law, suggest that our students take advantage of the Law School’s opportunities to learn about EU law, particularly if they are interested in areas like antitrust that involve cross-border work. My hope is that developing ties between Fordham and EU institutions like the Italian Competition Authority will help encourage our students to broaden their job and practice opportunities.

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