Trust-Buster, Professor makes his mark on antitrust law

Maybe not since President Theodore Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick to knock down railroad and oil monopolies has antitrust represented such a vital fi eld of the law. Countries around the world are establishing antitrust laws at record pace in an area of law historically limited to the United States and a few others.
“In 1990, I think there were 20 to 30 jurisdictions with an antitrust law,” University of Florida Levin College of Law Associate Professor D. Daniel (Danny) Sokol said. “But today, there are over 110 jurisdictions around the world with an antitrust law.”
As co-editor of the forthcoming Global Competition Law and Economics book series from Stanford University Press, author of numerous scholarly articles on antitrust and economics, and a cross discipline antitrust and economics workshop, Sokol is particularly attuned to the state of antitrust law.
“It is one of the areas of law that has truly become the most globalized, so that’s a very exciting thing for an area of law that’s over 100 years old in the United States,” Sokol said.
Most of the world, it seems, now agrees with America’s turn-of-the-century trust-buster-in-chief. An increasingly pro free-market European Union, the fall of communism, and the shift to market economics in China, India and elsewhere have contributed to the proliferation of antitrust regimes.
“Countries that came from centralized planning didn’t have a market economy,” Sokol said, “so this is part of the broader trend of global economic liberalization.”
Previously, in places like the United States, domestic antitrust laws carried the day. Globalization means that foreign jurisdictions now wield a veto.
“If the Europeans don’t want a merger to go through and the United States does, the merger’s probably not going through,” Sokol said.

Add  newly  emerging  markets  in Asia  —  mainly  China and  India  —  to  the  mix  and  there’s  a  whole  new  world  of antitrust issues to consider that never existed before. Sokol’s antitrust research and technical assistance work for antitrust authorities in the emerging Asian markets and Latin America has positioned him as an authority on the topic.

“Professor  Sokol  is  one  of  the  most  creative  and  energetic scholars in the antitrust community today,” said Richard Steuer, head of the American Bar Association Antitrust Law Section.  “His  vision  and  leadership  in  organizing  the  (New York University School of Law’s) groundbreaking Next Generation of Antitrust Scholarship Conference has been paving the way for a host of emerging academics in the field of competition law and economics.”

Steuer  also  praised  Sokol’s  Antitrust  and  Competition  Policy  Blog, which he said is “catching fire among antitrust enthusiasts.” Sokol’s frequently  updated  blog  features  news and academic scholarship.

Sokol has worked with international organizations to establish policy, including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Inter-American  Development  Bank.  This summer,  Sokol  will  conduct  antitrust training  sessions  in  Beijing  for  members  of  the  Supreme  People’s  Court. The judges need help interpreting a new anti-monopoly practices law promulgated    by the  Chinese  government.   Meanwhile,   Sokol   is working on a survey  of  how  the Chinese  government  undertakes antitrust merger review.

It’s topics  like  that  — where antitrust research  merges with policy development  —  that makes  the  research  enterprise  worthwhile for Sokol.

“It’s a very rewarding area because the academic work, in addition to being  shaped  by  policy  developments, also   shapes   policy   developments,” Sokol said. “It affects issues of entrepreneurship  and  innovation  —  what’s the next big company look like? What are  the  next  opportunities  for  smaller companies to grow?”

Pithy   quotes   and   an   outgoing personality  have  made  him  a  favorite  source  on  the  topic  in  the  national media, including CNN and The Associated  Press,  where  he  weighed  in  on recent investigations into Apple allegedly  working  with  publishing  companies to fi x prices on e-books.

Making an impact was something Sokol  carefully  considered  when  he entered the academic world, focusing on a field that piqued his interest as a young University of Chicago law student watching the Microsoft antitrust trial unfold in the late ’90s. After four years  in  private  practice  he  returned to academia — fi rst as a fellow at the University of Wisconsin, while teaching  law  classes.  He  joined  the  UF Law faculty in 2008.

“There  are  certain  issues, core issues that have always been  written about in antitrust  and  it’s  very difficult to make your mark where there’s already a lot of writing,” Sokol said. “So my idea  was to make my mark by focusing on those areas that are cutting edge, both intellectually and from a policy perspective,  where there  hasn’t  been as much focus.”

Sokol  said  he  accomplishes  this by analyzing antitrust institutions “in the  area  of  mergers,  cartels  and  the role of government in creating or distorting competition both in the United States and abroad.”

Ultimately, antitrust laws exist to police  the  market  against  malfunctions and to improve overall society’s welfare and benefi t, Sokol said.

“At  the  end  of  the  day,  I’m  happier when there’s greater competition — that means more innovation, lower prices, better services,” he said. “Everybody wins.

“I’ve  actually  sometimes  talked about it in religious terms: We’re doing God’s work.”