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.”