She is said to be the inspiration behind Birgitte Nyborg, the cool-headed Danish prime minister in the hit TV show Borgen. Today, European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected to live up to the go-getting reputation of her fictional counterpart by setting out a list of charges, known as a statement of objections (SO), against internet giant Google.
Caitlin Morrison, Jenny Forsyth
For lawyers battling the tech titan, who have been waiting nearly five years for action since the anti-trust probe began, the move would cement their feelings that she is the right woman for the job.
Vestager, who was previously a member of parliament in her native Denmark, was appointed to the role in November 2014, taking over from Joaquin Almunia, who had tried – unsuccessfully – to negotiate a settlement with Google over claims of anti-competitive behaviour, which the firm denies.
Although she has only been in office for a short time, those involved in the case have already noted that her approach is very different to that of her predecessor. Vestager told the Financial Times last month that she feels it is “very important not to make a habit out of settlements”.
“They are much more quick and much more smooth and everyone can move on, but still you need occasion to develop [case law] and only our judges and going to court can do that,” she said.
Laurent Geelhand, partner at law firm Hausfeld, which represents complainants against Google, told City A.M. yesterday: “Almunia was always looking for compromises, [Vestager] wants to get things done.”
Geelhand said the new commissioner had moved the case along after years of inaction. “She has brought a sense of urgency,” he said. “I’m very impressed.”
Jacques Lafitte, from Avisa, which represents French start-up 1plusV against Google, said that in hindsight, Almunia’s attempts to settle the case were “unthinkable”, but he “tried three times to convince us all that that was the solution”.
Vestager, a 47-year-old married mother of three, has rarely commented on her influence on the Danish political drama but has confirmed that Borgen actress Sidse Babett Knudsen trailed her for a day in preparation for the role. While Borgen’s third series was reported to be its last, perhaps a high profile case like this could inspire writers with a fresh plotline.