Mario Monti has used his office at the European Commission to aggressively enforce antitrust laws and ensure competition in the market for emerging technologies. And he hasnt shown any signs of backing off.
His agency blocked the proposed merger between Sprint and WorldCom out of concern that the combined companies would have too much control over Internet lines in Europe. The commission also effectively forced EMI and Time Warner to call off their merger plans and AOL Europe to cut its ties to media giant Bertelsmann. Both moves were made in an effort to gain the European Unions blessing for the proposed merger between America Online and Time Warner.
This year, Monti is trying to broaden his reach. He has proposed that his office be granted the power to break up anticompetitive companies. Among the biggest cases pending is a commission investigation into whether Microsoft is trying to leverage its operating systems monopoly into the market for server software. James Lucier, an analyst with Prudential Securities, says the investigation is an example of Montis forward-looking approach.
But Montis close scrutiny of industry mergers has drawn fire from some who claim he has zeroed in on U.S. companies for competitive reasons — a charge EU officials have denied. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, says the commission “rightly should review major mergers and acquisitions under its own laws. But the commission has tended strongly in recent years toward government intervention in the marketplace, including in the Internet.”
At the same time, Monti built a cooperative relationship with the antitrust division in former President Clintons Department of Justice, but whether this will continue under the Bush administration remains to be seen.