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United's woes illustrate the wider picture of a beleaguered industry that is struggling to consolidate and to become more global. This week, the airline confirmed that it is in discussions about how to scrap its agreed takeover of US Airways, announced in May last year.

This was to have been the capstone of United's strategy, making it at a stroke the biggest airline in the world and the one with the most powerful network in America. Unfortunately for the airline, the plan raised serious competition worries. Faced with mounting opposition and the likelihood of being blocked by the Department of Justice, United and US Airways had no choice but to give up their grand dream. The only comfort is that they will be spared the job of integrating their operations in a downturn or recession.

Nevertheless, United has to stand by and watch its arch-rival, American Airlines AA , become the world's biggest carrier after its unchallenged acquisition of troubled TWA earlier this year. Another merger that has gone sour is Swissair's flirtation with Belgium's Sabena, in which it has a Swissair has crushing problems of its own. Not surprisingly, it is unwilling to pour in more money unless the Belgian government contributes some, and unless there are big job cuts to stem Sabena's losses.

Furious Sabena workers blocked a runway to prevent a Swissair flight from taking off from Brussels on July 3rd. Despite these failed marriages, there are signs of some more consolidation in future. Air France and Alitalia agreed at the end of June to form an operating alliance that could lead them to take equity stakes in each other. This follows Alitalia's failure to woo KLM.

On top of these various woes, the airline companies must also cope with a rash of strikes and threats of strikes, which is affecting airlines in Asia as well as in Europe and America. Pilots are particularly disgruntled. Pilots at Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific are on a go-slow; Iberia's down joysticks every other day; and Lufthansa's were doing likewise until last month when an outside mediator gave them most of the huge rise that they wanted.

Lufthansa's pilots were seeking parity with their colleagues in the German airline's American alliance partner, the open-handed United. These joint marketing arrangements have allowed airlines to boost revenues by cross-selling each other's flights. But none has really made much headway in cutting costs. The pilots are much better organised. They have formed associations for each of the big three alliances.

Aptly, its members have wasted no time in getting down to the gritty business of swapping notes on pay and conditions, and comparing negotiating tactics. Pilots had feared that the alliance airlines would draft in pilots from partners in lower-wage economies, as already happens with cabin attendants. Instead, the pilots have sought to level up to American salaries. John Lindquist of the Boston Consulting Group, the author of a new benchmarking study on alliances, reckons the airlines risk losing more money from this sort of pilot activism than they could ever recoup in back-office cost savings.

All this labour trouble comes at an awkward time for the airlines. Pilots are after a share of the fat profits that their carriers have made in recent years. The trouble is that huge pay rises are increasing costs just as the industry goes into a cyclical downturn and profits melt away. Moreover, big pay rises for pilots make humbler airline workers keen to get more than the modest rises they normally win.

In the meantime they become surly because they feel they are exploited. And surly is not good in a service industry. For some airlines, the wage rises have already become painful. For years the industry's leaders thought that their salvation in an increasingly deregulated world would be consolidation, through mergers where allowed, and alliances where not.

That may yet be true. But the history of alliances has been disappointing, with much partner-swapping and one whole grouping—with Swissair at its centre—falling apart a few years ago. Even when they involve cross-shareholdings, alliances can be unstable. Meanwhile, the failure of the United and Swissair initiatives suggests that full-blown mergers are a dead end for now. If there is an easy way out of the industry's current troubles, it is well hidden. ALL of a sudden, the prospect of closure was in the air.

After America's Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited decision in the antitrust case against Microsoft on June 29th, everyone seemed a winner. Microsoft's critics were equally jubilant that the seven judges had unanimously found that the world's largest software firm indeed holds a monopoly—and has repeatedly abused its power to protect its Windows operating system from competition.

The only clear loser was Thomas Penfield Jackson, the lower-court judge who ordered the company's break-up a year ago. At the trial's end, Judge Jackson had repeatedly attacked Microsoft in media interviews.

Unsurprisingly, there is now much talk of a settlement. Many observers believe the appeals-court ruling has opened a path to a compromise that will leave Microsoft intact while punishing it for its past sins and ensuring that it changes its monopolistic ways. Yet anyone hoping that Microsoft's antitrust woes are finally over is bound to be disappointed.

In some ways, the appeals court's decision makes things worse: the firm could well end up as some sort of regulated monopoly that has to get its design choices approved by the courts. Clearly, the ruling is a compromise to achieve unanimity. Furthermore, the judges said, this is not a monopoly that is perennially in danger of being eclipsed by rapid change in the computer industry, as Microsoft has always argued. Having reached this conclusion, the court could hardly approve of the licensing restrictions that Microsoft imposed on PC makers and Internet service providers in the mids to beat back Netscape and its web browser, then considered a threat to Windows.

But the court sided with Microsoft on two other claims: that the firm had tried to monopolise the browser market and that it had unlawfully bundled its browser with Windows. The latter finding is perhaps the more important. Yet even on this point Microsoft did not score complete victory. The appeals court has not given it carte blanche to bundle anything it likes with Windows, as it did in a decision related to the case. Where the limits to such bundling now stand will be decided on a case-by-case basis, leaving open the question that underlies the entire case: how much bundling should Microsoft be allowed?

Although it did not say so explicitly, the appeals court seems to think that packaging a browser with the operating system passes muster. But what about Windows XP? Critics and competitors of this, the latest version of Windows, due out on October 25th, call it the mother of bundled products—and one with which Microsoft hopes to make headway in three new markets at once: online multimedia, instant messaging and web services.

A settlement could provide some answers. In the first, Microsoft will certainly have to accept the loss of some of its control over the desktop, meaning that it will no longer be able to dictate to PC makers exactly what the main Windows screen should look like. The firm will probably also have to promise not to co-mingle the code of the operating system with any new applications it comes up with. The second part will deal with the extent to which Microsoft can bundle new applications with Windows.

Although a settlement is the most likely outcome, it is also possible that Judge Jackson's successor, who must be appointed shortly, will have to decide. The attorneys general of 19 states—who along with the Department of Justice are the plaintiffs in the case—have a right of veto over any agreement. All along, they have taken a more aggressive stance towards Microsoft than has the justice department. And they have already indicated that they do not plan to let it off with a mere slap on the wrist.

Some see a break-up as being still on the table. They could file for an injunction blocking the release of Windows XP. All this will take some time to sort out. Because of the complexities of the case, settlement talks could go on until the end of the year. If the lower court gets another shot, it probably will not rule before the middle of next year.

And then the case will probably go back to the appeals court or the Supreme Court. That is why American antitrust experts are now looking across the Atlantic to see where the Microsoft action will be over the coming months. The European Union is conducting two similar, but distinct, investigations into whether Microsoft illegally leveraged its PC desktop monopoly into the market for server-operating systems.

To expect, however, that the European trustbusters will now do the work of their American colleagues is probably wishful thinking. The American and European cases are markedly different. In any event, Microsoft's real trouble may well come from a different quarter. The appeals-court decision could also lead to more private lawsuits—from competitors such as AOL Time Warner, for example, which now owns Netscape, or Sun Microsystems. Worse, the trial has undermined trust in Microsoft.

The firm recently abandoned, at least for now, a feature in Windows XP called Smart Tags because it was widely seen as a way of using its monopoly to attract customers to its online services. The technology would have allowed the Microsoft browser to turn any word on a web page into a link to the firm's own sites. The fears were probably overdone, but such is the price of a loss of trust. He could be forgiven for wanting to call Mr Van Miert back to say he was bang on, except that these days his stage is no longer European but global.

A look at Mr Monti's output on July 3rd reveals just how global and powerful his position has become. It took strong nerves to block the deal, for surely Mr Monti's stance betokens a worrying split between Europe and America. GE confidently expected the same result in Europe. Instead of less co-operation between authorities, he wants more. In a speech on July 4th, he called for the creation of a global annual forum at which antitrust regulators can share experiences and forge policies.

The pressure on Mr Monti is unlikely to abate quickly. President George Bush and several senators have grumbled publicly at what they see as unwarranted interference in an all-American deal, and have hinted that Mr Monti's true aim was to protect European companies. That has politicised the whole question of antitrust policy and opened a new front for transatlantic tensions. Mr Monti was at pains to say that he hoped the history of close co-operation between his team and American officials would not be jeopardised by a genuine difference of opinion.

It will not be easy, however, to contain the issue if politicians decide that they want to exploit it. A measure of Mr Monti's sense of diplomacy is that he could, if he chooses, deflect criticism of himself and his officials by throwing it straight back at the Americans. So far he has been judiciously silent on the question of whether the D o J bungled its investigation and thereby forced the European Union to play the tough cop.

He has also resisted the temptation to point out in public that American companies such as Rockwell Collins and United Technologies, rather than European firms, provided him with the main ammunition used to shoot down the merger. In at least one case, the same information was offered to the D o J , which chose not to listen.

Plenty of observers, including Jack Welch, GE 's departing chairman, have acknowledged that Mr Monti possesses a formidable combination of charm, intelligence and an ability to be polite even when he is being stubborn. A sign of his growing reputation is that he was offered the job of foreign minister in Silvio Berlusconi's new Italian government.

Perhaps wisely, he preferred to stay in Brussels—although the offer points to a possible future career. Mr Monti began his career as an economics professor and, despite what some critics say, a sound grasp of theory underpins his competition role. However, he is perhaps too relaxed when his team breaks new antitrust ground, as it did several times during the GE negotiations and in the case relating to IMS Health. In essence, the Monti approach involves teasing out the commercial realities of complex, sometimes overlapping, industries and markets.

That is fine, but it relies heavily on sounding out competitors, and rather less on asking customers for their views. Mr Monti needs to insist on a greater balance. He should also heed suggestions that his officials sometimes let their power go to their heads.

Indeed, as the range of his activities expands, Mr Monti is coming under increasing pressure to change Europe's competition procedures and to make sure that his officials stick to agreed rules and precedents.

His department has to scrutinise more and more deals. Although it has expanded in recent years, it remains under-resourced. Now it has about twice as many staff, but last year looked at transactions see chart.

Mr Monti has introduced a fast-track system for uncontroversial deals to ease the load, but almost two-thirds of all cases still need detailed work. The lack of independent assessment within the MTF is also controversial. The same officials handle a case from start to finish, often forming strong opinions during the investigative phase. That can make it impossible for them to be objective when they have to adjudicate. Mr Monti has previously acknowledged that it might be better to have officials make their case to an internal judge who has no axe to grind.

But he has yet to do anything to change the current arrangements. The challenge of managing and adapting the MTF as big companies grow increasingly global is arguably a greater one than making any particular ruling, however tricky. If he listens to his critics and truly reforms Europe's competition regime, he might just win a more impressive place in history. THE tobacco industry has plenty of fires to fight at the moment. It stands accused of supporting cigarette smuggling.

It has also faced a raft of claims that it misled smokers about the dangers of cigarettes and marketed an addictive drug to teenagers. The industry's legal woes have been compounded by the terms of out-of-court settlements. Reynolds RJR —agreed to place company documents unearthed in the litigation into public depositories for ten years. Researchers have been sifting through these for indications of further misdemeanours, with some success: some documents, for instance, raise serious questions about involvement in smuggling, which the firms deny.

Equally important, they point to widespread price-fixing. The Economist has seen documents that suggest the big tobacco multinationals colluded to fix prices in as many as 23 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.

All of the documents come from the archive that BAT , the world's most international tobacco company, set up in Guildford, England, following the Minnesota settlement. But although they are internal BAT memos, they also suggest the involvement of its main competitors in price collusion.

Several of the documents make overt reference to price increases negotiated with rivals. An example is a memo on the Thai market, written on March 1st , just after a decision by the GATT , the predecessor of the World Trade Organisation, forced the Thais to open their cigarette market to foreign firms. The companies, it seems, were fixing prices not only to raise their margins but for a more strategic reason: to lull the Thai government, one of the developing world's more anti-smoking administrations, into thinking that new foreign cigarette brands would not fare well, and thus avoid tobacco-control measures.

Perhaps the most extraordinary document shows the minutes of a meeting between managers from BAT and Philip Morris at Pennyhill Park, a hotel near London, on August 5th see illustration above. DNP stands for duty not paid—ie, smuggled. These are not isolated cases. Nor do the documents refer merely to straightforward price collusion.

Market share was fixed, too. Often in cases of alleged price-fixing, the companies involved claim it was all the fault of rogue country managers far away. In this case, that is hard to argue. Although most of the documents seen by The Economist relate to developing countries far from head office, some of them were most likely read by senior BAT executives.

A number of other documents were sent or copied to senior managers at head office. Another claim made by industry sources is that it would be pointless to try to fix prices in the developing world, as in most countries the global players are up against local monopolies that dominate the market; without their co-operation, it would be impossible to keep prices artificially high or low.

But this claim is spurious, too. In this high-margin segment, two or three multinationals usually dominate—and can easily manipulate prices if they collude. Eric LeGresley, a consultant based in Ottawa, says the documents strongly suggest that tobacco multinationals have operated as a cartel, with price-fixing as an integral part of their operations. BAT declined requests for an interview about the documents. RJR said it could not answer questions about its international operations, as these were sold to Japan Tobacco in Philip Morris said the documents were not new, and that it abides by the laws of all countries in which it does business.

Taken as a whole, the documents strongly suggest that the fixing of prices and of market share was widespread in the late s and early s. Clearly, at that time the tobacco companies did not expect that their internal documents would end up in public archives. Even so, there were attempts to avoid leaving a paper trail. What of BAT 's dismissal of the documents as old? Certainly, they are all at least five years old. Even if they were to admit that the documents referred to actual price-fixing, the companies might argue that they have changed their ways—and there is no evidence to suggest that any such thing is still going on.

If such evidence exists, it would not be found in the depositories, as they only cover the period up to Harry Kane made a surprise return to the starting line-up against West Brom, having not been expected to return from an ankle problem until this fixture at the earliest. Follow live updates of all the action from Goodison Park. Jose Mourinho has revealed the decision not to start Harry Kane in Wednesday's FA Cup clash against Everton followed a conversation with the striker, who did not feel ready to play twice in three days.

Kane was named on the bench for Tottenham's fifth-round tie at Goodison Park after returning from ankle injuries ahead of schedule in Sunday's win over West Brom. The England captain scored and played 90 minutes against the Baggies having missed the previous two matches after being forced off at half-time of the defeat to Liverpool. Manchester City set a new record for consecutive wins by an English top-flight club after sweeping Swansea aside to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Everything you need to know ahead of the FA Cup tie. Follow live updates of all the action from Liberty Stadium. Riise is in temporary charge of England until Sarina Wiegman takes over in September. All you need to know ahead of the all-Premier League clash. The Professional Footballers' Association [PFA] have backed calls for temporary concussion substitutions to be trialled alongside permanent replacements. Read full article.

It was not to be.

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E dinar crypto currency price America's unemployment rate during the coronavirus pandemic peaked at Other investigations into the link with Itera are continuing. Here is how. Savvy Hong Kong tourists claim to know of several competing organisers—an industry, in other words. The only clear loser was Thomas Penfield Jackson, the lower-court judge who ordered the company's break-up a year ago.
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PBS NEWSHOUR BITCOINS TO DOLLARS

She, like the rest of the group, went on the trip because it was an all-expenses-paid way to see Europe. In fact, those who bought more than their quota of handbags even earned a bonus. But the itinerary did not allow for any sightseeing at all, and for meals the group ate Chinese takeaway in the van. The boss never introduced himself to the group, but when his troops returned he stood nearby in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's airport, watching them claim their luggage.

His business seems to be going well—another tour group is apparently already on the way. Savvy Hong Kong tourists claim to know of several competing organisers—an industry, in other words. Nor is Louis Vuitton the only target: Gucci tours have also taken place. Should companies whose prices are being arbitraged in this way mind?

Louis Vuitton's European sales benefit from such tourism, after all. So Louis Vuitton, along with other owners of luxury brands, is working with the authorities to crack down on such tourism. This is tricky, not only because the arbitrageurs tend to pay cash, but also because Louis Vuitton would hate to confuse them with its genuine customers from Asia, who have also been known to binge on bags. In America, traffic has grown more slowly than GDP in eight out of the past 13 quarters. The last time the airline industry stalled, it suffered horrendously because of the combination of recession and the Gulf war, which scared away many travellers.

The current crunch, like the last one, has also come at a bad time for the world's airlines. All sorts of other forces are buffeting an industry that lives on the edge of instability. Start with poor results. In America, only Southwest Airlines and Continental stayed in profit in the first quarter of this year admittedly, always a slack period for airlines.

On July 4th, BA reported a fall in traffic for the second month in a row, though the rate of decline was a little less precipitous: 8. United's woes illustrate the wider picture of a beleaguered industry that is struggling to consolidate and to become more global. This week, the airline confirmed that it is in discussions about how to scrap its agreed takeover of US Airways, announced in May last year.

This was to have been the capstone of United's strategy, making it at a stroke the biggest airline in the world and the one with the most powerful network in America. Unfortunately for the airline, the plan raised serious competition worries. Faced with mounting opposition and the likelihood of being blocked by the Department of Justice, United and US Airways had no choice but to give up their grand dream.

The only comfort is that they will be spared the job of integrating their operations in a downturn or recession. Nevertheless, United has to stand by and watch its arch-rival, American Airlines AA , become the world's biggest carrier after its unchallenged acquisition of troubled TWA earlier this year.

Another merger that has gone sour is Swissair's flirtation with Belgium's Sabena, in which it has a Swissair has crushing problems of its own. Not surprisingly, it is unwilling to pour in more money unless the Belgian government contributes some, and unless there are big job cuts to stem Sabena's losses. Furious Sabena workers blocked a runway to prevent a Swissair flight from taking off from Brussels on July 3rd. Despite these failed marriages, there are signs of some more consolidation in future.

Air France and Alitalia agreed at the end of June to form an operating alliance that could lead them to take equity stakes in each other. This follows Alitalia's failure to woo KLM. On top of these various woes, the airline companies must also cope with a rash of strikes and threats of strikes, which is affecting airlines in Asia as well as in Europe and America. Pilots are particularly disgruntled. Pilots at Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific are on a go-slow; Iberia's down joysticks every other day; and Lufthansa's were doing likewise until last month when an outside mediator gave them most of the huge rise that they wanted.

Lufthansa's pilots were seeking parity with their colleagues in the German airline's American alliance partner, the open-handed United. These joint marketing arrangements have allowed airlines to boost revenues by cross-selling each other's flights. But none has really made much headway in cutting costs. The pilots are much better organised. They have formed associations for each of the big three alliances.

Aptly, its members have wasted no time in getting down to the gritty business of swapping notes on pay and conditions, and comparing negotiating tactics. Pilots had feared that the alliance airlines would draft in pilots from partners in lower-wage economies, as already happens with cabin attendants. Instead, the pilots have sought to level up to American salaries.

John Lindquist of the Boston Consulting Group, the author of a new benchmarking study on alliances, reckons the airlines risk losing more money from this sort of pilot activism than they could ever recoup in back-office cost savings. All this labour trouble comes at an awkward time for the airlines. Pilots are after a share of the fat profits that their carriers have made in recent years. The trouble is that huge pay rises are increasing costs just as the industry goes into a cyclical downturn and profits melt away.

Moreover, big pay rises for pilots make humbler airline workers keen to get more than the modest rises they normally win. In the meantime they become surly because they feel they are exploited. And surly is not good in a service industry.

For some airlines, the wage rises have already become painful. For years the industry's leaders thought that their salvation in an increasingly deregulated world would be consolidation, through mergers where allowed, and alliances where not. That may yet be true.

But the history of alliances has been disappointing, with much partner-swapping and one whole grouping—with Swissair at its centre—falling apart a few years ago. Even when they involve cross-shareholdings, alliances can be unstable. Meanwhile, the failure of the United and Swissair initiatives suggests that full-blown mergers are a dead end for now. If there is an easy way out of the industry's current troubles, it is well hidden.

ALL of a sudden, the prospect of closure was in the air. After America's Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited decision in the antitrust case against Microsoft on June 29th, everyone seemed a winner. Microsoft's critics were equally jubilant that the seven judges had unanimously found that the world's largest software firm indeed holds a monopoly—and has repeatedly abused its power to protect its Windows operating system from competition.

The only clear loser was Thomas Penfield Jackson, the lower-court judge who ordered the company's break-up a year ago. At the trial's end, Judge Jackson had repeatedly attacked Microsoft in media interviews. Unsurprisingly, there is now much talk of a settlement. Many observers believe the appeals-court ruling has opened a path to a compromise that will leave Microsoft intact while punishing it for its past sins and ensuring that it changes its monopolistic ways. Yet anyone hoping that Microsoft's antitrust woes are finally over is bound to be disappointed.

In some ways, the appeals court's decision makes things worse: the firm could well end up as some sort of regulated monopoly that has to get its design choices approved by the courts. Clearly, the ruling is a compromise to achieve unanimity. Furthermore, the judges said, this is not a monopoly that is perennially in danger of being eclipsed by rapid change in the computer industry, as Microsoft has always argued.

Having reached this conclusion, the court could hardly approve of the licensing restrictions that Microsoft imposed on PC makers and Internet service providers in the mids to beat back Netscape and its web browser, then considered a threat to Windows. But the court sided with Microsoft on two other claims: that the firm had tried to monopolise the browser market and that it had unlawfully bundled its browser with Windows.

The latter finding is perhaps the more important. Yet even on this point Microsoft did not score complete victory. The appeals court has not given it carte blanche to bundle anything it likes with Windows, as it did in a decision related to the case. Where the limits to such bundling now stand will be decided on a case-by-case basis, leaving open the question that underlies the entire case: how much bundling should Microsoft be allowed? Although it did not say so explicitly, the appeals court seems to think that packaging a browser with the operating system passes muster.

But what about Windows XP? Critics and competitors of this, the latest version of Windows, due out on October 25th, call it the mother of bundled products—and one with which Microsoft hopes to make headway in three new markets at once: online multimedia, instant messaging and web services.

A settlement could provide some answers. In the first, Microsoft will certainly have to accept the loss of some of its control over the desktop, meaning that it will no longer be able to dictate to PC makers exactly what the main Windows screen should look like.

The firm will probably also have to promise not to co-mingle the code of the operating system with any new applications it comes up with. The second part will deal with the extent to which Microsoft can bundle new applications with Windows. Although a settlement is the most likely outcome, it is also possible that Judge Jackson's successor, who must be appointed shortly, will have to decide.

The attorneys general of 19 states—who along with the Department of Justice are the plaintiffs in the case—have a right of veto over any agreement. All along, they have taken a more aggressive stance towards Microsoft than has the justice department. And they have already indicated that they do not plan to let it off with a mere slap on the wrist. Some see a break-up as being still on the table. They could file for an injunction blocking the release of Windows XP.

All this will take some time to sort out. Because of the complexities of the case, settlement talks could go on until the end of the year. If the lower court gets another shot, it probably will not rule before the middle of next year. And then the case will probably go back to the appeals court or the Supreme Court. That is why American antitrust experts are now looking across the Atlantic to see where the Microsoft action will be over the coming months.

The European Union is conducting two similar, but distinct, investigations into whether Microsoft illegally leveraged its PC desktop monopoly into the market for server-operating systems. To expect, however, that the European trustbusters will now do the work of their American colleagues is probably wishful thinking.

The American and European cases are markedly different. In any event, Microsoft's real trouble may well come from a different quarter. The appeals-court decision could also lead to more private lawsuits—from competitors such as AOL Time Warner, for example, which now owns Netscape, or Sun Microsystems. Worse, the trial has undermined trust in Microsoft. The firm recently abandoned, at least for now, a feature in Windows XP called Smart Tags because it was widely seen as a way of using its monopoly to attract customers to its online services.

The technology would have allowed the Microsoft browser to turn any word on a web page into a link to the firm's own sites. The fears were probably overdone, but such is the price of a loss of trust. He could be forgiven for wanting to call Mr Van Miert back to say he was bang on, except that these days his stage is no longer European but global.

A look at Mr Monti's output on July 3rd reveals just how global and powerful his position has become. It took strong nerves to block the deal, for surely Mr Monti's stance betokens a worrying split between Europe and America.

GE confidently expected the same result in Europe. Instead of less co-operation between authorities, he wants more. In a speech on July 4th, he called for the creation of a global annual forum at which antitrust regulators can share experiences and forge policies. The pressure on Mr Monti is unlikely to abate quickly. President George Bush and several senators have grumbled publicly at what they see as unwarranted interference in an all-American deal, and have hinted that Mr Monti's true aim was to protect European companies.

That has politicised the whole question of antitrust policy and opened a new front for transatlantic tensions. Mr Monti was at pains to say that he hoped the history of close co-operation between his team and American officials would not be jeopardised by a genuine difference of opinion. It will not be easy, however, to contain the issue if politicians decide that they want to exploit it. A measure of Mr Monti's sense of diplomacy is that he could, if he chooses, deflect criticism of himself and his officials by throwing it straight back at the Americans.

So far he has been judiciously silent on the question of whether the D o J bungled its investigation and thereby forced the European Union to play the tough cop. He has also resisted the temptation to point out in public that American companies such as Rockwell Collins and United Technologies, rather than European firms, provided him with the main ammunition used to shoot down the merger. In at least one case, the same information was offered to the D o J , which chose not to listen.

Plenty of observers, including Jack Welch, GE 's departing chairman, have acknowledged that Mr Monti possesses a formidable combination of charm, intelligence and an ability to be polite even when he is being stubborn. A sign of his growing reputation is that he was offered the job of foreign minister in Silvio Berlusconi's new Italian government.

Perhaps wisely, he preferred to stay in Brussels—although the offer points to a possible future career. Mr Monti began his career as an economics professor and, despite what some critics say, a sound grasp of theory underpins his competition role. However, he is perhaps too relaxed when his team breaks new antitrust ground, as it did several times during the GE negotiations and in the case relating to IMS Health. In essence, the Monti approach involves teasing out the commercial realities of complex, sometimes overlapping, industries and markets.

That is fine, but it relies heavily on sounding out competitors, and rather less on asking customers for their views. Mr Monti needs to insist on a greater balance. He should also heed suggestions that his officials sometimes let their power go to their heads. Indeed, as the range of his activities expands, Mr Monti is coming under increasing pressure to change Europe's competition procedures and to make sure that his officials stick to agreed rules and precedents.

His department has to scrutinise more and more deals. Although it has expanded in recent years, it remains under-resourced. Now it has about twice as many staff, but last year looked at transactions see chart. Mr Monti has introduced a fast-track system for uncontroversial deals to ease the load, but almost two-thirds of all cases still need detailed work.

The lack of independent assessment within the MTF is also controversial. The same officials handle a case from start to finish, often forming strong opinions during the investigative phase. That can make it impossible for them to be objective when they have to adjudicate. Mr Monti has previously acknowledged that it might be better to have officials make their case to an internal judge who has no axe to grind.

But he has yet to do anything to change the current arrangements. The challenge of managing and adapting the MTF as big companies grow increasingly global is arguably a greater one than making any particular ruling, however tricky. If he listens to his critics and truly reforms Europe's competition regime, he might just win a more impressive place in history.

THE tobacco industry has plenty of fires to fight at the moment. It stands accused of supporting cigarette smuggling. It has also faced a raft of claims that it misled smokers about the dangers of cigarettes and marketed an addictive drug to teenagers. The industry's legal woes have been compounded by the terms of out-of-court settlements. Reynolds RJR —agreed to place company documents unearthed in the litigation into public depositories for ten years.

Researchers have been sifting through these for indications of further misdemeanours, with some success: some documents, for instance, raise serious questions about involvement in smuggling, which the firms deny. Equally important, they point to widespread price-fixing. The Economist has seen documents that suggest the big tobacco multinationals colluded to fix prices in as many as 23 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.

All of the documents come from the archive that BAT , the world's most international tobacco company, set up in Guildford, England, following the Minnesota settlement. But although they are internal BAT memos, they also suggest the involvement of its main competitors in price collusion. Several of the documents make overt reference to price increases negotiated with rivals. An example is a memo on the Thai market, written on March 1st , just after a decision by the GATT , the predecessor of the World Trade Organisation, forced the Thais to open their cigarette market to foreign firms.

The companies, it seems, were fixing prices not only to raise their margins but for a more strategic reason: to lull the Thai government, one of the developing world's more anti-smoking administrations, into thinking that new foreign cigarette brands would not fare well, and thus avoid tobacco-control measures. Perhaps the most extraordinary document shows the minutes of a meeting between managers from BAT and Philip Morris at Pennyhill Park, a hotel near London, on August 5th see illustration above.

DNP stands for duty not paid—ie, smuggled. These are not isolated cases. Nor do the documents refer merely to straightforward price collusion. Market share was fixed, too. Harry Kane made a surprise return to the starting line-up against West Brom, having not been expected to return from an ankle problem until this fixture at the earliest.

Follow live updates of all the action from Goodison Park. Jose Mourinho has revealed the decision not to start Harry Kane in Wednesday's FA Cup clash against Everton followed a conversation with the striker, who did not feel ready to play twice in three days. Kane was named on the bench for Tottenham's fifth-round tie at Goodison Park after returning from ankle injuries ahead of schedule in Sunday's win over West Brom.

The England captain scored and played 90 minutes against the Baggies having missed the previous two matches after being forced off at half-time of the defeat to Liverpool. Manchester City set a new record for consecutive wins by an English top-flight club after sweeping Swansea aside to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals. Everything you need to know ahead of the FA Cup tie. Follow live updates of all the action from Liberty Stadium.

Riise is in temporary charge of England until Sarina Wiegman takes over in September. All you need to know ahead of the all-Premier League clash. The Professional Footballers' Association [PFA] have backed calls for temporary concussion substitutions to be trialled alongside permanent replacements.

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