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It was announced recently that Per Hellström, a senior EU Commission official in DG Competition, would be leaving to join Apple, Inc. as senior director for competition and government affairs. This is the latest (and perhaps most notable) of a number of high profile moves from the European institutions to the companies they regulate or to law firms (e.g. John Temple Lang to Cleary Gottleib, Robert Klotz to Hunton & Williams).
Mr Hellström is a Swedish lawyer who played a significant role in the Commission's antitrust cases against Microsoft Corp. in 2004. Apple has itself been the subject of Commission investigations, including on e-book pricing: Apple let publishers set e-book retail prices as long as they gave Apple a 30% cut for selling the books through its iBookstore. Five publishers signed contracts with Apple and they then imposed a new sales process on Apple competitor Amazon, effectively banning it from discounting. The case was settled in December 2012.
There are reports that Mr Hellström has taken a one year unpaid leave of absence from the Commission (rather than having left officially) but is subject to two restrictions: that he will deal with any case he's ever worked on, directly or indirectly, while at DG Competition, and that he cannot lobby the Commission on any matter which could lead to a conflict of interest.
The Commission's position on conflicts is set out in this blog. In summary, it is as follows:
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