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Recent EU Antitrust Investigations into Financial Services: What Is the Scope for Antitrust Intervention?

Mark D. Powell, Katarzyna Czapracka, CPI Antitrust Chronicle, July 2011

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When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the European Commission ("the Commission") swiftly joined the global efforts to save the financial industry. The state aid powers granted to the Commission have allowed it to be a key player in crisis management. The Commission reviewed and approved vast amounts of government assistance aimed at rescuing financial institutions in various EU Member States and calming the financial markets. As the financial sector recovers, the Commission has taken a tougher stance, and has adopted measures aimed at reducing banks’ reliance on state support. It has proposed a package of regulatory measures to strengthen the supervision of the financial sector in Europe. It has also indicated that it will subject the financial sector to a rigorous antitrust scrutiny. However, to date, its antitrust bark has been more than its bite, as its principal regulation tool remains the state aid rules.

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