Angela Huyue Zhang ‘Strategic Comity’ (2019) Yale Journal of International Law 44(2)

The extent to which US courts should enforce antitrust laws against state-led export cartels has been the subject of intense debate among academics, courts and policymakers for decades. While defendants often invoke the state compulsion defence, which is based on comity and respect for foreign sovereigns, these doctrines have long been criticised for their ambiguity and inconsistent application. The recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Chinese state-led Vitamin C cartel – reviewed here – highlights a number of challenges with the way these doctrines have been applied in the US. The author’s argument in this paper, available here, is that the application of both comity and foreign state compulsion defences are susceptible to political considerations, and that the Supreme Court decision is a good example of this. The author argues that the Supreme Court proactively solicited the opinion of the executive branch before hearing its case, and its final ruling is exactly in line with the opinions and suggestions proposed…

Pieter J. F. Huizing ‘Comparing territorial limits to EU and US public enforcement of the LCD cartel’ (2018) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 6 231

This article, available here, describes the US and EU positions on the territorial scope of public cartel enforcement – i.e. how far outside their territories can competition authorities reach to punish cartel conduct committed abroad by foreign undertakings – by reference to the LCD cartel. Cartelised LCD panels were manufactured by a number of Asian producers with varying levels of direct and indirect imports into the EU and the USA. Both the European Commission (Commission) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had to determine the territorial limits to their enforcement in respect of this international cartel, and to then defend their approach in court. In both jurisdictions, it is accepted that competition authorities benefit from long territorial reach and wide discretion in determining the amount of fines. It is submitted that the legal precedents created by decisions regarding this cartel are a cause for concern in view of the increasingly crowded global cartel enforcement arena. This argument is developed…

Omar Shah, Christina Renner and Leonidas Theodosiou ‘Intel, iiyama, Power Cables: A Revolution in the Treatment of Territoriality and Jurisdiction in EU Competition Law?’ (2019) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice

Important recent decisions by the EU and national courts – in Intel, iiyama and Power Cables – have set the stage for a potential increase in public enforcement and private litigation of business conduct which has effects on competition in the EU internal market despite not being implemented there. This paper, available here, addresses the potential changes to EU and national law wrought by these decisions, and considers the extent to which limiting principles may emerge to address potential conflicts of law, multiplicity of proceedings and double jeopardy. It is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the evolution of EU law on the jurisdictional reach of its competition provisions. The EU Courts have had to delimit the jurisdictional scope of EU law, typically in the context of judicial review of decisions of the European Commission (‘Commission’) in which the Commission had exercised enforcement jurisdiction over conduct whose territorial links to the EU were susceptible to challenge. Early on, the Court…

Javier Garcia-Verdugo, Carlos Merino Troncoso and Lorena Gomez Cruz ‘An Economic Assessment of Antitrust Fines in Spain’ (2018) World Competition Law and Economics Review 41(3) 335

This article, available here, tries to quantify the deterrent power of fines imposed by the Spanish competition authority from 2011 to 2015. Despite being authored by senior staff at the Spanish competition authority, the paper concludes that most of the fines imposed by the Spanish competition authority during this period were under deterrent. The argument is structured as follows: Section II sets out how to quantify cartel gains. A deterrent optimal fine can be defined as a fine that deters a company from participating in a cartel. Such an outcome is achieved when there is no expected net gain from participating in the cartel in the first place, i.e. when the expected illicit gain of entering into a cartel is lower than the expected loss from being sanctioned for cartel participation. Therefore, the reference value for an optimal fine should be determined by reference to an estimate of the illicit gain (also known as excess profit) flowing from cartel membership. This illicit…

Dagmar Schiek and Andrea Gideon on ‘Outsmarting the gig-economy through collective bargaining – EU competition law as a barrier?’ (2018) International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 32(2-3) 275

While the use of information technology can enhance personal self-determination, its use in the context of the gig-economy also creates the risk of entrenching casual, precarious and exploitative working conditions. A crucial question that arises is how far gig-workers are able to shape their work conditions. Within the sphere of employment law, the right of workers to organise collectively provides the opportunity to achieve just that. This paper, available here, aims to analyse the barriers posed by EU competition law to collective labour rights of gig-workers. It argues that EU competition law, as currently interpreted by the Court of Justice, would hinder collective organisation of those serving the gig-economy. It also advances an interpretation of the competition provisions which would allow EU competition law to adapt to recent developments in labour markets. It is structured as follows: A first section sketches the basic features of the gig-economy. The gig-economy is mainly characterised by the extensive use of IT for the distribution, allocation,…

Douglas Ginsburg and Cecilia (Yixi) Cheng  ‘The Decline in U.S. Criminal Antitrust Cases’ George Mason University Law & Economics Research Paper Series 19-31 (Forthcoming in Liber Amicorum Albert A. Foer (2020) Nicolas Charbit et al. (eds)

Criminal cartel prosecutions are at modern lows in the U.S. The authors of this paper, available here, offer three non-exclusive hypotheses for this decline: (1) increasingly large fines in multiple jurisdictions have lessened the incentive to apply for leniency in any one jurisdiction; (2) technology has caused the substitution of lawful tacit for unlawful express collusion; and (3) competition policy has succeeded in deterring cartel formation – at least among U.S. companies. Copyright: FT While the available data is too limited to reach a definite conclusion, it seems to support the third hypothesis: since 2008, investigations have focused predominantly on foreign companies, while both the number and share of investigated U.S. companies have decreased. This is consistent with the hypothesis that U.S. competition policy has been effective in deterring anti-competitive conduct by US companies. Section II describes the recent downward trend in cartel prosecutions. The number of criminal cases filed annually by the DoJ decreased from 90 in 2011 to 18 in…

Nikolaus Fink, Philipp Schmidt-Dengler, Konrad Stahl and Christine Zulehner on ‘Registered cartels in Austria: an overview’ (2017) European Journal of Law and Economy 44 385

Many countries used to allow firms to engage in anticompetitive practices as long as they registered their agreements with a government authority. This was the case in several European countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden after World War II; or the United States under the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). In Austria, cartels were legal until the country’s EU accession in 1995. This paper.  available here, examines archival material on various types of registered horizontal cartels in Austria to learn about their inner working. It undertakes a content analysis of these legally binding cartel contracts with a view to identifying different collusion methods. In short, the authors find that these cartel agreements addresses those issues that the academic literature has identified as potential obstacles to sustaining collusion over time. In particular, the agreements set up compensation schemes, reporting requirements, rules for entry and exit, and mechanisms to ensure quick and credible punishment of cartel deviation. The paper is…

William E. Kovacic, Robert C. Marshall and Michael J. Meurer on ‘Serial collusion by multi-product firms’ (2018) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 6 96

This paper, available here, is long and so, I am afraid, is the review. In short, the authors of this paper take issue with the assumption that each cartel in which a given firm participates is a single instance of conduct that is independent of other cartel conduct by the firm. Evidence of serial collusion by major multi-product firms is readily observable from the public record in a number of sectors, such as chemicals, electronics, car-parts, financial products or graphite. Further, collusion persists in at least three of these industries, with new investigations having recently been opened into collusion in the chemical, auto parts, and financial products markets. The paper provides empirical evidence that many multi-product firms have each participated in several cartels over the past 50 years. It argues that traditional assumptions regarding how cartelists operate, and consequent enforcement strategies, are deficient in many aspects. Reflecting this, the authors make policy recommendations to reign in serial collusion. The article is structured as…

Vivek Ghosal and Daniel Sokol on ‘The Rise and (Potential) Fall of U.S. Cartel Enforcement’

This working paper, which is available here,  is still rough around the edges, but it contains a number of interesting insights, which I thought might be of interest. This essay traces how the institutional setting of U.S. cartel enforcement evolved over the years, and assesses these developments from an optimal deterrence framework. In doing so, the authors also review the outcomes of the various US policy regimes in terms of number of cartels prosecuted, the level of financial penalties imposed per individual and firm, and of jail time for cartel crimes. The authors also offer an analysis of how cartel enforcement has varied with recent US Presidential administrations. Section 3 describes how cartel enforcement has evolved in the US since 1890. Cartel enforcement in US began with the passage of the Sherman Act, which imposed a maximum fine for collusion of USD 5,000, raised to USD 50,000 in 1955. Jail time was not actively pursued until the late 1950s, when…

Daniel Sokol ‘Reinvigorating Criminal Antitrust?’ (2019) William & Mary Law Review 60 1545

A number of non-cartel antitrust infringements remain crimes under US law, even if they are not prosecuted in practice. This article, available here, deals with the implications of recent claims for increased antitrust enforcement for the application of such provisions.  A natural extension of enforcement would be to advocate the use of criminal sanctions for various antitrust violations outside of collusion which are “on the books” but have not been used in over a generation. The article argues that a return to the criminalisation of non-collusion related antitrust abuses is problematic not only as a matter of optimal deterrence, but also unconstitutional as a matter of law. Section one describes how antitrust criminalisation is a form of achieving deterrence. Antitrust enforcement builds on models of optimal deterrence. Under an optimal deterrence antitrust framework, a firm or individual will be deterred where the expected costs of illegal activity, taking into account the probability of detection and magnitude of the penalties, exceed…