Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Massive EU Antitrust Fine Levied Against Intel

The European Commission has fined Intel 1.06 billion Euros—about $1.45 billion—for alleged anticompetitive actions against longtime rival AMD and enjoined any future such actions, report Reuters and the NY Times. The fine, a record, is more than double the one imposed on Microsoft in 2004, and 25% larger than a 2008 penalty against a glass maker for price fixing. Intel had no immediate comment, but is expected to appeal. Other tech companies facing EU antitrust scrutiny include Google, Cisco, Microsoft and IBM, with the latter two having actually been charged.

The size of the fine underscores the dominant role European regulators have adopted in antitrust, an area of law that somewhat faded from the U.S. radar screen over the last 30 years, especially during the mostly Republican administrations in that period. That quiescence will change under Obama, according to commentators and the new head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. In any case, antitrust enforcement is an increasingly global affair and, with antitrust laws in over 100 countries, one wonders whether an international treaty might one day emerge. The political obstacles, however, are probably formidable.

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