Competition Law and the European Financial Services Sector: An Overview of Recent Developments

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Competition Law and the European Financial Services Sector: An Overview of Recent Developments

Phoebus Athanassiou, Legal Counsel, European Central Bank, Germany

The European Commission has recently been channelling more resources to the enforcement of competition in the financial sector in an effort to combat the financial industry's continuing fragmentation. Contrary to the Commission, the European Court of Justice has taken an early interest in the application of antitrust rules to the activities of financial intermediaries. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the Commission's recent financial sector-related competition enforcement decisions and initiatives and to examine some of the hitherto jurisprudence of the Court in this area. By way of comparison, and with a view to drawing some insights on the likely outcome of a financial services-related challenge of the concurrent application of antitrust and sector-specific regulation, this article will also briefly examine the situation across the Atlantic where a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States has emphatically rejected the applicability of antitrust rules to the financial services sector.

Academic qualifications: LLB in English and European (French) Law (London, 1998); LLM (London, 1999)Professional Qualifications: Attorney at Law (Athens Bar Association, 2003)Current Employer (2004 to date): Directorate General Legal Services, Legal Advice Division, European Central Bank Selected recent Publications:1.“Towards pan-European Hedge Fund Regulation? State of the Debate” (forthcoming in Legal Issues of Economic Integration)2.“When is e-money not e-money? Reflections on the revision of the E-money Directive’ (forthcoming in the Revue Européenne de Droit Bancaire et Financier/ European Banking and Financial Law Journal)3.“Reflections on the status of independent national authorities under Community public procurement law” Public Procurement Law Review 2007, 5, 305-324 (co-authored with Jorge García Andrade)4.“Orams v Apostolides: a case-study on the application of the Brussels I Regulation in the light of the Act of Accession 2003” Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 14, 2007:2, 1195.“Towards a Single Market in Retail Financial Services: Reflections on the Role of ADR” in Legal Issues of Economic Integration, Vol 33, 2006, No 3, 229 (co-authored with S. Mavrommati)6.“Recent Developments in Greek Capital Markets Law”, in (2005), 16 European Business Law Review, 893

Description of the ECB’s activities - According to Article 105(1) of the Treaty EC, the primary objective of the European System of Central Banks (the ESCB) is to maintain price stability. Without prejudice hereto, the ESCB shall support the general economic policies in the Community with a view to contributing to the achievement of the objectives of the Community. Moreover, the ESCB shall act in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition, favouring an efficient allocation of resources. Article 105(2) of the Treaty EC lays down that the basic tasks to be carried out through the ESCB shall be to (i) define and implement the monetary policy of the Community, (ii) to conduct foreign-exchange operations consistent with the provisions of Article 111, (iii) hold and manage the official foreign reserves of the Member States, and (iv) promote the smooth operation of payment systems. Directive 2006/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2006 relating to the taking up and pursuit of the business of credit institutions (recast), (OJ L 177, 30.6.2006, p. 1

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