Top Big Tech Investigator Quits European Commission

EU competition czar Margrethe Vestager is losing another of her most experienced commanders in the campaign against Google to a large law firm, reported Politico.

Longtime official Nicholas Banasevic, who spearheaded the European Commission’s antitrust probes against Google, will join the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher The date of the move is still to be confirmed.

Banasevic is far from being the first high-profile name to jump ship this year. His move follows the departure of two other top competition officials with long experience in fighting Silicon Valley giants — Cecilio Madero Villarejo and Carles Esteva Mosso — who also are joining law firms that act for the very same companies. Madero was the chief of antitrust within the Commission’s competition department when Vestager launched her crusade against Google.

Banasevic has “decided to leave DG Competition and the Commission to join private practice,” Olivier Guersent, director general of the European Commission’s competition department, informed his staff on Monday morning. “Nick has been key to the success of a number of the landmark cases that have made the reputation of excellence of DG Competition,” Guersent wrote in an email seen by POLITICO.

Banasevic, a British national, has worked at DG Competition for more than 20 years. Since 2012, he has headed the unit that brought three Google investigations that hit the search giant with more than €8 billion in fines. On November 10, the EU General Court will rule on Google’s challenge of the first of those cases, which saw the company fined €2.42 billion over its shopping comparison service.

While the Commission has successfully concluded these cases with fines against the search giant, complainants in the cases grumble that Brussels’ action has been less effective at reining in Google’s dominance of the market.

The announcement of Banasevic’s departure comes right after a five-day court hearing in Luxembourg over the Commission’s €4.3 billion Android case against Google. At the court, the case team was represented not by Banasevic, but by his long-time deputy Brice Allibert.

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