FTC director examines shifting digital marketplace

Published: November 26th, 2012

Category: Feature

Howard Shelanski, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Economics, discussed how antitrust agencies are dealing with the changing digital marketplace at the Bayard Wickliffe Heath Memorial Lecture Series Nov. 16 at UF Law. (Photo by Haley Stracher)

By Francie Weinberg
Student writer

Students, faculty and staff poured into the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center Courtroom Nov. 16 to hear Howard Shelanski speak about antitrust law in his presentation, “Information, Innovation, and Competition Policy for the Internet.”

Shelanski, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Economics, discussed how antitrust agencies are dealing with the changing digital marketplace. He examined the theory that under-enforcement of antitrust laws in the digital world results in lower-error costs than over-enforcement, and how competition policy can improve on assessing costs, benefits and risks in digital markets.

“I don’t think it is news to anybody that competition enforcement and antitrust enforcement in high-technology markets, particularly in what we call digital platform markets, has been a very major focus of antitrust agencies around the world,” he said. “This set of industries is very central to antitrust enforcement and for good reason: these are industries that are responsible for a tremendous amount of economic growth, a significant amount of investment and frankly, they affect our everyday lives in somewhat dramatic ways.”

Shelanski praised UF Law as possessing an incomparable antitrust program, unlike any other college in the nation. This includes Georgetown Law, where he is a professor.

“The University of Florida is quite remarkable in the percentage of the faculty that are leading antitrust scholars,” he said. “You all are very lucky to be here. Take advantage of these offerings and go forward in this fantastic field of ours.”

Though Shelanski works for the FTC, he noted that the views expressed in his lecture were his and did not reflect those in the Bureau of Economics. He also said that the references he made of any ongoing investigations did not actually portray the future outcomes but rather his personal thoughts on the matter. A webcast of the Heath Lecture is available here.

Shelanski is the fourth annual speaker brought to the University of Florida Levin College of Law for the Bayard Wickliffe Heath Memorial Lecture Series. He has co-written six books and contributed to myriad law reviews and scholarly journals. In 2004, he received Berkeley Law’s Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction. Shelanski’s teachings and research focus on antitrust, regulation and telecommunications policy.

The Heath Memorial Lecture Series is made possible by a gift from Inez Heath, Ph.D., widow of Bayard “Wick” Heath. Before his death in 2008, Heath was the senior competition consultant with Info Tech, a Gainesville firm specializing in statistical and econometric consulting, expert witness testimony and antitrust law. Previous lecturers include Herbert Hovenkamp, William Kovacic and Joseph Harrington.