The European Commission has ordered the UK to recover illegal aid that the country granted to certain multinational companies, as the commission found part of an anti-tax avoidance scheme violated EU state aid rules.
The EU’s General Court has struck down a European Commission decision finding that Belgium granted unlawful tax relief to to at least 66 companies, but lawyers do not expect the ruling to have much of a bearing on upcoming challenges to more high-profile state aid tax cases.
The UK’s new state aid regime, which is set to be introduced when the country leaves the European Union, will be “as similar to the European Commission’s current procedural rules as possible”, the UK enforcer has confirmed.
Even without the Department of Justice in the room, the hearing on Friday on states’ challenge to T-Mobile/Sprint displayed a concentration of antitrust minds. The litigation in Manhattan federal court now features 14 state attorneys general and counsel from eight different law firms. Judge Victor Marrero noted that the proceedings pit opposing forces of nature against each other, as Keker & Van Nest partner Paula Blizzard argued for the state plaintiffs against defence counsel Steven Sunshine at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Sunshine said a settlement between the merging companies and the DOJ is imminent, and that all parties should be ready to go for a 7 October trial. Blizzard said the terms of that settlement – specifically whether the agency finds a need for fourth major competitor – could put the agreed-upon schedule in flux.
Congress should play an active role in antitrust enforcement and competition policy, the chairman of the House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee said on Thursday.
The European Court of Justice’s recent Heitkamp Bauholding ruling shows the importance the courts attach to the selectivity principle in state aid – but the European Commission lacks “the right toolkit” to define the correct reference system in such cases, a commission official has said.
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