Competition

Competition work requires highly specialised economic consulting skills, where the expert professional economist often works closely with leading law firms specialising in competition law.  PMCA’s founder and Managing Director – Dr. Pat McCloughan – is named among the world’s leading competition economists in The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers and Economists published jointly by Who’s Who Legal and Global Competition Review.  He authored the chapter on Ireland in The Handbook of Competition Economics 2013 (published by Global Competition Review) (see news).

Competition policy generally aims to make individual goods and services markets work better for their users, which include businesses as well as personal consumers.  Economic principles predict that markets work best for their users when there is effective competition, which may comprise actual competition between existing providers, potential competition from new entrants and/or countervailing buyer power exercised by users.  The sources of effective competition, and their extent, differ from market to market.

Effectively competitive markets imply lower prices, better choice and/or higher quality and are often typified by a greater variety of providers competing for business as well as tending to be more innovative.  For example, greater variety among competitors in terms of their business structure means that coordination is less likely and competition more probable.

Competition policy basically aims to safeguard or improve competition in individual goods and services markets; it does not seek to protect businesses.  What matters is ensuring the competitive process, which in turn is central to promoting overall economic competitiveness in countries. 

PMCA is active in all aspects of competition economics, including:

  • Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures (JVs) – for example, providing expert economic analysis to parties and their legal advisers to help ensure that the deal gains approval from national competition authorities (NCAs)
  • Ex-post merger evaluations – as a check on the effectiveness of its merger control function, an NCA may wish to retain an expert economist to look back at what actually happened with a previous merger/acquisition or in the context of a challenge to such a transaction
  • Dominance – for instance, the provision of evidence-based economics effects analysis to help support or enlighten a particular position or line of argument in an alleged abuse of dominance case
  • Cartel investigations – antitrust work involves economic analysis of the effects of arrangements between undertakings or estimation of the economic damages arising from cartel activity, which represents the most serious violation of competition law and may take the form of price fixing, market sharing or bid rigging
  • Competition-based market studies – an assignment in this regard might include assisting a business with an NCA market investigation, which can entail a very detailed process spanning one or more years, or advising an NCA in such a study
  • Horizontal and vertical agreements – providing evidence-based analysis of the economic implications of agreements in the context of the current ‘self-assessment’ environment whereby undertakings are required to ensure that all their agreements are compliant with national and European competition law
  • State aids – including economic analysis of public supports in the context of EU State Aid rules, which reflect competition principles
  • Competition compliance programmes – a growing area of competition work that includes the design and implementation of competition materials and training to help ensure that organisations, including trade and industry representative bodies, are better-placed to understand the competition policy implications of their behaviour and are compliant with national and European competition law.