The European Commission on Friday reaffirmed its decision to appoint US economist Fiona Scott Morton as the Chief Economist of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, brushing off criticism from both the European legislature and French ministers.
According to Reuters, Scott Morton, who will take up the three-year appointment on September 1st, is set to become the first non-EU national, first US national, and first female to hold the position.
Scott Morton’s appointment has been met with controversy, as some lawmakers and French ministers have expressed concern over potential conflicts of interest due to her past work with Big Tech companies and her previous public comments on antitrust.
The leaders of the four main political groups of the European Parliament, the European People’s Party, Renew Europe, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, and the Greens/European Free Alliance, as well as French ministers Catherine Colonna and Jean-Noël Barrot, asked the commission to reconsider the appointment. Dana Spinant, commission spokeswoman, however, reaffirmed the decision, stating, “The college endorsed the proposal to appoint this person to the position. The decision was made. We see no grounds to reconsider.”
Despite the controversy, Scott Morton remains the director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University, an organization which focuses on various aspects of competition policy. To avoid conflicts of interest, Scott Morton will not work on cases in which she has previously been involved or on cases relating to companies with whom she previously worked as a consultant.
Prior to her appointment, Scott Morton had a wide range of experience in areas such as antitrust and competition policy, consulting for CRA International and being involved in research on digital platforms and their impact on competition and innovation. Scott Morton has advocated for the U.S. government’s role in ensuring healthy competition in both the healthcare markets and tech industry, and has authored several papers on the subject.
Scott Morton also participated in the Stigler Committee on Digital Platforms at the University of Chicago, encouraging increased antitrust enforcement and regulation for these platforms. Additionally, she has authored papers on loyalty rebates, platform MFNs, horizontal shareholding, and antitrust and innovation.
In one of her Yale Insights interviews, when asked if antitrust law is “keeping up” with today’s large tech companies, Scott Morton stated, “The thing to understand is that antitrust is always going to be a lagging indicator. It’s hard to litigate. It’s hard to prove harms. It’s often a much slower process than trying to get ahead of potential harm.”
When questioned about whether she works for companies that might break the law, Scott Morton responded, “I work for companies that I’m comfortable are not breaking the law, that are well within the orthodoxy of antitrust enforcement.”
The European Commission’s decision to move forward with the appointment of Scott Morton has faced criticism from various parties, but the Commission as stands firm in its decision to appoint her as the Chief Economist of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition. Scott Morton’s tenure will begin on September 1.