Eleanor Fox ’61 honored by colleagues for her decades of pioneering antitrust work

On October 27, legal publisher Concurrences released Eleanor M. Fox: Antitrust Ambassador to the World in recognition of the pioneering work of Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation Eleanor Fox ’61. The 500-page liber amicorum, or Festschrift, includes contributions from three dozen of Fox’s friends and colleagues attesting to her eminence in her field and her intellectual prescience.

Eleanor Fox
Eleanor Fox '61

“Times have changed, and questioning antitrust orthodoxy was not always popular as it is today,” write Maria Coppola of the US Federal Trade Commission and David Lewis of Corruption Watch South Africa in the book’s foreword. “Looking outside the US borders for inspiration was perhaps even less popular. And yet this book honors someone who has done both for decades and is unequivocally one of the most beloved and vibrant figures in the international competition community.” 

At a virtual reception hosted by Concurrences on October 28, Albie Sachs, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, praised Fox, whom he called “a prophet abroad,” for her “scintillating mind—sharp, intelligent, composed, sure…. For her, competition law was about people. It wasn’t about things. Competition law was to enable people who’d been kept out, shut out, disregarded, treated almost as objects themselves in the production process and purely as consumers consuming a product.” Charles L. Denison Professor of Law Harry First explained that Fox “reminds me of the importance of taking a broader perspective, and not just as a geographical matter—because she is sensitive to the perspectives of others and the need to examine one’s own conceptions through the eyes of others.”

The week before the Concurrences reception, the Competition Commission South Africa honored Fox during its annual conference. Introducing Fox, Mpumi Tshabalala, senior case manager at the Competition Tribunal of South Africa, remembered her own early readings on competition law. “[They] felt a bit foreign to me,” Tshabalala recalled. “It felt disconnected from my lived experience, a little bit abstract, and not really concerned with my position as a Black African woman in this globalized world. I can’t say that I even saw…myself playing a role in the community…until I read one of your papers.”

Over her six-decade career Fox has regularly looked beyond conventional thinking in her field, say Coppola and Lewis in their foreword: “In the early 1980s, as the Chicago School began to dominate thinking, she questioned the efficiency narrative and argued for antitrust to encompass not only consumer interests, but others as well, such as dispersion of economic power and protection of the competitive process as market governor…. These days, she writes about how competition agencies in developing nations can use their public interest standard to address the economic strains imposed by the coronavirus, and what an international framework for addressing competition concerns of digital platforms might look like.” Her books include Making Markets Work for Africa: Markets, Development, and Competition Law in Sub-Saharan Africa and Global Issues in Antitrust and Competition Law.

Fox was a pioneer in striving for gender equality as well. One of fewer than a dozen women in her graduating class, she became the first woman partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 1970. Upon entering academia, she established herself as a leading thinker in a field dominated by men. She remains a prolific scholar; just last month, she published a co-authored article, “Antitrust and Big Tech Breakups: Piercing the Popular Myths by Cautious Inquiry,” examining the difficulty of breaking up integrated single-firm monopolies such as Facebook.

At the October 28 reception, Fox expressed gratitude for the glowing tributes from colleagues and spoke about the broader meaning of antitrust law for her: “There’s a sense in which competition and markets capped by antitrust maps onto some of our highest values…. Competition and the competition community stand against power and privilege and corruption, and for openness and tearing down barriers, and thus it is for inclusiveness and it is for empowerment, whether that’s a byproduct or the product.”

Posted November 15, 2021