Analysing EC merger decisions how well has the European Commission’s merger process balanced accuracy and speed?

Click here to read the full article online

Merger regulators exist to prevent mergers and acquisitions that would substantially harm competition. In performing their duties, two key issues arise: accuracy and speed.

In each case, the decision-making process matters. Decisions need to be thorough, well-reasoned, and well evidenced. A regulator that errs in either direction – by approving harmful transactions or by blocking benign deals – harms competition and consumers’ interests. However, decisions need to be thorough without being burdensome. Extensive enquiries come at a cost, potentially delaying beneficial agreements or causing them to be abandoned.

So, how effective is the European Commission (EC)’s review process? Experience tells us a great deal, but it can overemphasize the importance of specific cases. What are the facts for the process as a whole? To answer this question, the Data Science team at Compass Lexecon built a unique dataset of EC merger decisions, which analyzes 7,823 cases between 1990 and 2020, and uses machine learning to read and interpret almost 100,000 pages of decisions. Our analysis provides some preliminary insight into how the EC merger review process is working.