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Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Overview of the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies

Posted by Spencer Waller

Thanks to Danny and the Blog for the opportunity to talk a bit about the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies at Loyola Chicago where I have served as Director for the past ten years.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a few times about different aspects of the Institute and my current scholarly work.  In this introduction, I will focus on an overview of the Institute,  its mission, and recent Institute programs.  In future posts, I will talk about the unique student fellowship program we run and my own research agenda as a faculty member at Loyola. 

The Loyola University Chicago Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies is a non-partisan, independent academic center designed to explore the impact of antitrust law enforcement on the individual consumer and to shape public policy.  The Institute promotes a comprehensive, inclusive view of the benefits of competition law and policy that includes, but goes beyond, narrow notions of economic efficiency.  The Institute fulfills its mission by sponsoring symposia, academic colloquia, and consumer education classes, publishing working papers, undertaking research projects, hosting scholars from around the globe, and funding a unique student fellowship.

The Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies owes its existence to the perseverance of two extraordinary people, the late Judge Hubert Will, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and Dean Emeritus Nina Appel of Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Beginning in the1980s, Judge Will increasingly believed that the centrist tradition in American antitrust law was threatened by the influence of the so-called Chicago school of antitrust analysis and the associated well-funded group of think tanks, academic literature, and judicial education programs that relentlessly sought to inculcate what he considered a false belief that a narrow definition of allocative efficiency was the only value at stake in antitrust.  More importantly, Judge Will decided to do something about it.  In supervising the settlement of a major private treble damage antitrust class action case, Judge Will announced that he would entertain proposals under the doctrine of cy pres, so that the funds remaining after all claims, fees and costs had been paid could be used to promote the interests of actual consumers in the ongoing antitrust debate.

Then Dean Nina Appel became aware of this opportunity and prepared with the help of the Loyola faculty and friends in the antitrust community the proposal that ultimately became the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies.  Judge Will selected the Loyola proposal over the competing proposals he received and directed the funds to Loyola.  This proved to be the beginning, rather than the end, of the process.  On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed Judge Will’s decision with respect to the left over funds and all monies were returned to the court.  It was only in a subsequent settlement of a different antitrust case that Judge Will followed the road map laid out for him by the Seventh Circuit and ultimately awarded similar funding to the Institute and the proposal again championed by Dean Appel. The Institute has received additional funding and support from Loyola University Chicago, subsequent cy pres distributions from courts, as well as gifts from foundations, law firms, corporations, and individuals.

The Institute began under the leadership of Professor Jane Locke of the Loyola University Chicago and carved out for itself a unique niche as the only academic public interest center focusing on both antitrust and consumer protection law.  Living up to its mandate from Judge Will, the Institute began examining issues of competition from the perspective of the consumer and insisting that such benefits must be tangible, and not merely theoretical in the sense of wealth maximization for producers. The Institute sponsored consumer education classes, writing competitions, as well as conferences on antitrust and health care, antitrust at the millennium, and consumer protection issues for the elderly.

Since 2000 when I joined the Loyola faculty, the Institute has instituted a number of new programs.  The Institute created a unique fellowship for students at the law school which I will discuss in greater detail in my next post.  Those who can’t wait can find more details on the Institute web site at    http://www.luc.edu/law/academics/special/center/antitrust/fellowship.html.

For the academy, the Institute sponsors the annual Loyola Antitrust Colloquium to support the work of professors in law and related disciplines who share the Institute’s centrist pro-consumer orientation.  The first colloquium was convened in April 2001 and featured thirty attendees for a day of papers, commentary, and discussion.  The colloquium has grown to an annual event of over one hundred attendees and featured leading competition and consumer law professors, policy makers, practitioners, and members of the judiciary from the United States and abroad.

The Institute web site features a number of free publications designed both for the public and antitrust professionals.  The working paper series includes the papers from all the symposia held by the Institute, the current and past issues of the Loyola Consumer Law Review, as well as scholarly work from faculty members at Loyola University Chicago and other law schools.  The News and Views Section features shorter discussions of new books and current events in the field.  The web site also includes a Consumer’s Guide to Antitrust, Institute fact sheets with priorities for competition and consumer law, and the newsletters of the Institute.

The Advisory Boards are another key component of the Institute. The United States and International Advisory Boards assist the Institute director, faculty, and staff as a source of ideas for programs, speakers, research projects, competition advocacy before state and federal agencies and legislatures, job placement, funding opportunities, and provides valuable direction to the evolving nature of the Institute.  The Boards include representatives from all segments of  the bar, corporations, government, academia, and alumni of the Law School and student fellowship with diverse points of view, but all share a basic commitment to the importance of competition and consumer law.

Although the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies remains a work in progress, it is best defined by the numerous public programs over the past fifteen years.  In addition to the annual colloquium in the spring, the Institute has sponsored major symposia including antitrust and energy deregulation (2001); the future of private rights of action (2004); the 20th anniversary of Matsushita (2006); comparative monopolization law (2009); designing better institutions to enforce competition law (2009); and the antitrust marathon series of roundtable discussions focusing on timely issues of comparative competition issues.  Full information about all the activities of the Institute can be found on the web site at http://www.luc.edu/antitrust or by contacting me at [email protected]

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