When General Electric bid for Honeywell in 2000, it was Jack Welch’s last “swing for the fences”. The GE chief executive handwrote the $43bn offer faxed to his Honeywell counterpart. He delayed his retirement to see through the takeover. He went alone in June 2001 to the last meeting in Brussels with Mario Monti, then European competition commissioner.
Entrepreneurs tend to see regulation as the enemy of innovation and progress.
But while it is true that watchdogs can struggle to keep pace with fast-changing markets and to comprehend technology companies’ novel ways of working, it is hardly surprising they sometimes resort to random barking.
In the last months of the current European Commission, Google is in deep trouble. Its effort to reach an antitrust deal with Joaquín Almunia, the competition commissioner who is to be succeeded by Margrethe Vestager, is failing amid an outcry from politicians and rivals that it is being let off the hook.
Microsoft has been fined by the European Commission. Getty Images
Jaron Lanier is a “partner architect” at Microsoft but he doesn’t speak for the software company. As the scientist, composer and author explained to an audience at The Economist’s Technology Frontiers conference on Tuesday, what he says “probably horrifies any number of individuals within the company”.
Even so, in retrospect, it his hard not to read some of his remarks differently, in the light of the European Commission’s €561m fine for Microsoft, confirmed on Wednesday, for breaching a high-profile competition agreement with the European Union. Read more
The financial crisis revealed that management and supervision of banks were more than just a numbers game, so it’s distressing to see the European Commission edging towards a limit on the number of directorships bank directors can hold.
I’m all in favour of close monitoring – by the board – of whether board members are taking on too much. The job of bank director is too important to entrust to individuals who are already shouldering a big burden elsewhere. But the best way to ensure directors can devote quality time to the job is for the board nominations committee to be absolutely explicit about the amount of work involved. A clue: at large financial institutions, it’s a lot. Read more