The EU bureaucrat most responsible for the lengthy and wasteful delay in approving the Oracle/Sun deal showed her core values earlier this year when she first slapped a $1.5 billion fine on Intel and then mocked the American company by saying Intel should change its ad slogan from "sponsors of tomorrow" to "sponsors of the European taxpayer." A real knee-slapper, huh?
That revelation came via an opinion piece on Forbes.com seven months ago that spelled out the anticapitalism attitudes and achievements of EC bureaucrat Neelie Kroes this way:
"Europe long has had a preference for restraining competition. Over the past decade, it has used competition law as a major tool to prevent market leaders from actually competing. The problem has grown far worse under Ms. Kroes. Largely at the behest of American firms that saw Europe as the best forum for holding back more successful American rivals, Ms. Kroes has imposed one fine after another on companies she decides have abused their dominant position--that is, have done something that makes them more successful and competitors less successful."
Strong claims, to be sure, but this is from an observer who knows the topic very well: Ronald A. Cass, chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law, dean emeritus of Boston University School of Law, and former commissioner and vice-chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission.
As for Kroes' standup routine mocking Intel and revealing her ultimate objective of bedeviling successful American companies in order to subsidize European citizens, Cass offered these observations about Kroes' truly disturbing outlook:
"She explained that she was striking a blow for European consumers and for competition. In truth, the joke is on Europe. Sadly, it ultimately may be on America and much of the rest of the world as well. . . . The fine against Intel is an extraordinary one, especially for a single firm that is being penalized for having competed in a way Ms. Kroes deems improper. Even if there is evidence she can point to in supporting her view of what Intel did (which wouldn't be surprising in a case of this sort), Ms. Kroes' behavior should be a cause of grave concern to those who value markets, competition, consumer welfare and the rule of law. . . .
"When a prosecutor--or, worse yet, a judge--starts joking about those she has targeted, everyone should be worried. Billion dollar-plus fines are no joking matter. Nor are government officials with the power to impose them. If Ms. Kroes is not chastised for this behavior, Europeans will suffer, as firms will stop believing they'll get a fair break and also will stop competing hard in Europe."
This, then, is the supposedly open- and fair-minded arbiter determining the fate of Oracle/Sun. But this time, I think the joke is on Kroes and her fellow socialists on the EU's competition commission because Oracle has presented to their commissariat powerful endorsements from a dozen global customer organizations, and has issued publicly a set of 10 commitments for how it will ensure MySQL's ongoing openness and accessibility.
Too bad for Kroes—she's probably had her team of joke-writers working overtime (wait: hasn't the EU outlawed overtime?) to come up with a sequel (hey--she could call it "MySQL"!!) to her gut-bustin' line about Intel.
And speaking of Intel, let me refresh your memory on how Kroes viewed that great company and the role she sees for it in Europe:
at a press conference in mid-May, Kroes, speaking to reporters and preening for photographers as she announced the $1.5 billion fine she was levying on Intel, cracked wise that Intel should change its advertising slogan from "sponsors of tomorrow" to "sponsors of the European taxpayer." Oh that Kroes--what a cut-up!
As for her fervent hopes to bleed Sun dry and burn a few thousand more jobs in order to make Oracle drop its acquisition bid, maybe she was all prepared to rise again to the level of her Intel one-liner and say something like this: "Now that I've neutered Oracle, they should change their slogan from 'the information company' to 'the impotent company.' " Or maybe the EU's closet comedienne would take a different tack and say, "We Europeans won't let Oracle sap our enterprise software market!" (Get it?? Get it??)
Well, after so much Kroesian hilarity I hate to be the buzz-killer but let's wrap this up with a final word from Prof. Cass on the dangerous path down which Kroes and her fellow travelers of the EC are intent on taking Europe:
"If antitrust authorities around the world see this as the pattern to emulate--after all, it increases the prominence and importance of the regulator and pleases all the firms that don't have to work so hard to keep up with market leaders--the rest of us will suffer as well."
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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