Friday, May 12, 2006

Antitrust finds Berlusconi did not violate conflict of interest rules

The Garante della Concorrenza has just ruled that Berlusconi didn't violate conflict of interest rules when his government approved aid for digital TV decoders. Ruling is available here, English summary here.

I can't say that I'm very impressed with the quality of the ruling. The MSN report linked to above gives a very partial account of the ruling, and suggests that the scope of Berlusconi's acquittal was greater than it actually was.

As far as I can make out, the initial requests were made by Sen. Luigi Zanda (Margherita, and, surprise surprise, ex Rai Council member), complaining not just about the subsidies included in the 2006 budget, but for the years preceding. The Garante started by rebuffing his case, using some extremely questionable reasoning. According to Berlusconi's account, the final major amendment to the budget was entirely the responsibility of Giulio Tremonti, who proceeded without any act on the part of the Council of Ministers ( a surprising, perhaps worrying, claim). According to the Garante, this meant that the Garante could not act on the case, since "the lack of a formal act... excluded any possibility of intervention on the part of the [Garante]". This claim despite the language of the conflict of interest law, which not only includes "the adoption of an act" but also "the formulation of a proposal or the omission of a required act".

Anyway, the Garante eventually investigated the case, but excluded from its investigation the (much larger) subsidies in 2004 and 2005, since those budgets were passed before the conflict of interest legislation.

No comments: