Antitrustitalia's founders on its creation and activities

BL: When did you set up antitrustitalia and what motivated you to take this initiative?

AI: antitrustitalia was created last spring by a group of friends – four lawyers (Francesco Carloni – Shearman and Sterling LLP, Luca Crocco and Gianni De Stefano – Latham & Watkins LLP, Giorgio Castaldo – DG COMP official) and an economist (Massimo Tognoni of LEAR).

We decided to set up antitrustitalia because we felt that, while there is a lot of informal contact between the many Italian antitrust professionals in Brussels, there was no network as such. We all shared the view that it was important to create a platform to bring together Italians working on antitrust in Brussels – Commission officials, lawyers, private companies, economists and academics – to allow for a fruitful exchange of experiences and to foster closer relationships.

We started in May 2011 with a list of about 40 people, a domain name, a great logo designed by a friend, and a lot of enthusiasm of course! Since then the number of participants has grown significantly (antitrustitalia’s list includes now over 140 people). We also benefited from the support of the Italian Permanent Representation to the European Union, which immediately showed interest for antitrustitalia’s initiative and activities, and hosts some of its events.

BL: What are the basic tenets of the network you want to set up?

AI: Since the very begininng, antitrustitalia has been driven by three simple principles:

  • Independence: antitrustitalia is not and will never be a marketing tool for its promoters nor a lobbying organization. This is reflected in the varied composition of the group’s promoters, which in turn ensures that, for instance, when choosing speakers or topics for our events, we take a balanced view.
  • Regularity of the events: we decided that rather than organizing one or two big events per year, it was important to meet regularly, possibly on a monthly basis, even if only for a drink. Of course, we still aim to organise high-profile events – for instance, we had a member of the Almunia Cabinet as a guest at the Italian Permanent Representation to the European Union. While we are happy to use Internet and social media to communicate, we hope that antitrustitalia creates the conditions for real life relationships between people.
  • Active participation: we believe that the success of this initiative will crucially depend on the participation and ideas of fellow Italian professionals practicing antitrust in Brussels. For this reason we encourage a pro-active participation in antitrustitalia and we welcome suggestions, proposals and contributions from all interested people.

BL: How have people reacted to the creation of antitrustitalia?

AI: The initiative has been highly welcomed by the Italian community in Brussels (and not only in Brussels as the events are also open to Italian antitrust practitioners based outside Brussels). After six months or so of activity and five events we consider that overall, the feedback from the participants has been very positive. The number of people participating in antitrustitalia’s activities is steadily increasing: our latest events have been at full capacity, and we have had to create waiting lists (we hope that in the future we will be able to afford bigger venues). What we believe really shows the potential of the group is that many participants are now actively suggesting ideas for the next events, volunteering for presentations and sharing job opportunities. Antitrustitalia has helped us discover what a great community of Italian professionals practising antitrust we have in Brussels!

BL: How does one become a member?

AI: There is no membership or subscription fee. We try to reach out to all Italian antitrust experts based in Brussels and to get as many of them on board as possible. This is coherent with antitrustitalia’s aim of creating an open network that must be maintained by the active participation of all those who are interested and willing to contribute to its development and growth.

BL: What is antitrustitalia’s plan for 2012?

AI: We see 2012 as a year of consolidation and we have a plan based on three pillars:

  • a social side, with our “aperitivi” and dinners;
  • a seminar program, with monthly “Pranzi Antitrust” (antitrust lunches) where an expert on a specific and hot topic of competition policy gives a presentation followed by an open debate. “Pranzi Antitrust” are held in Italian and aim at providing legal updates on selected EU and Italian competition law issues to antitrustitalia’s audience. The first antitrust lunch took place on 2 December 2011, where we discussed the legal nature and practical aspects of corporate statements with an official of the cartel unit of DG COMP. The next lunch is scheduled for 24 February 2012, and will have a counsel from an international law firm discussing recent developments in acquisitions of minority shareholdings; and
  • a series of “high-level” events at the Italian Permanent Representation to the European Union such as the one where Ms. Elisabetta Righini, the Italian member of Almunia’s Cabinet, gave a presentation followed by a Q&A session. Like the “Pranzi Antitrust”, these events are in Italian but last longer (approximately two hours).

BL: What is the long-term goal of antitrustitalia?

AI: We intend to keep offering opportunities for meeting up and exchanging views – or just enjoying a drink – on a regular basis. Our hope is that the Italian antitrust professionals in Brussels will see antitrustitalia as a resource to grow as professionals, make new friends, discover opportunities and, last but not least, enjoy life outside the office.