The OECD Report on International Private Enforcement

Officially known as ‘Individual and Collective Private Enforcement of Competition Law: Insights for Mexico in 2018’, this Report was prepared with a view to advise Mexico on how to reform its private enforcement regime. The Report can be found here. Advising Mexico in this regard required the pursuit of a comprehensive overview of international experiences with private competition enforcement – with a focus on Europe and North America, but also looking beyond these regions. This project also required the identification of the various elements that comprise private enforcement regimes around the world, the various forms that each of these elements may take, and how these elements relate to one another. I may of course be mistaken, but I think there is no other work like this in the market. As such, I circulate the Report here because I think it can provide a useful reference for anyone working or interested in private enforcement.

Damien Geradin and Katarzyna Sadrak‘The EU Competition Law Fining System: A Quantitative Review of the Commission Decisions between 2000 and 2017

This paper – which can be found here – takes a quantitative approach to analysing the factors considered by the Commission when establishing the amount of fines imposed on infringing undertakings in 110 cartel decisions, as well as on 11 abuse of dominance decisions adopted between January 2000 and March 2017. The analysis shows that the Commission has made significant use of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances listed in the Fining Guidelines to adjust the basic amount of the fine. The article is structured as follows: Part II examines the methodology applied by the Commission when determining fine amounts. Article 23(2) of Regulation 1/2003 is the sole legal basis for the imposition of fines by the Commission for anti-competitive conduct. This Article provides that “the fine shall not exceed 10% of [the undertaking’s] total turnover in the preceding business year’. To make its method for setting fines clearer and more transparent, the Commission had published Fining Guidelines in 1998, which were…

Pierre Huizing ‘Fining Foreign Effects: A New Frontier of Extraterritorial Cartel Enforcement in Europe?’ (2017) World Competition 40(3) 365

This paper – which can be found here – asks whether national competition agencies in Europe (NCAs) have the power to sanction anticompetitive activity taking place outside their territory. The question went unaddressed in Regulation 1/2003, which set up the system of decentralized competition enforcement currently in place in the EU. According to this paper, the members of the European Competition Network (ECN) used to proceed on the basis of a common understanding that each authority would only pursue cross-border cartels for their domestic effects – with the Commission pursuing EU-wide cartels. However, in recent cases some NCAs have departed from this practice and imposed fines that took into account the EU-wide effects of cartels. This article reviews the NCA’s practice as regards the sanctioning of extra-territorial cartel activity, and the academic and political debate about whether this practice is legitimate and appropriate. It does so as follows: Section 2 reviews the enforcement practices of a number of NCAs. It…

Murillo Campello (Cornell), Daniel Ferrés  (Montevideo) and Gaizka Ormazabal  (IESE)  ‘Whistle-Blowers on the Board? The Role of Independent Directors in Cartel Prosecutions’ (2017) The Journal of Law and Economics 60(20 241

The goal of this paper – which can be found here – is to examine ‘whether market-based penalties for nonexecutive officials [more specifically, independent board members] in firms involved in price-fixing are significant in shaping their behaviours.’ The reason to focus on independent board members is that they ‘are highly sensitive to market sanctions (for example, in the form of reputational losses). Importantly, directors have powers not only to order internal investigations but also to require officers and employees to cooperate with prosecutors. In some cases, boards also establish special committees and appoint outside counsel to consider applications for leniency. As a result, they constitute a set of corporate insiders whom antitrust policies can exploit in designing prosecution policies.’ The paper is structured as follows: Second 2 begins by providing an overview of US and EU regimes for cartel prosecution and leniency. It also describes the role of corporate boards in cartel investigations. In the US: ‘Once the corporation learns…

Pierre Cremieux and Edward A. Snyder ‘Enforcement of Anticollusion Laws against Domestic and Foreign Firms’ (2016) The Journal of Law and Economics 59(4) 775

This paper – which can be found here – looks into whether cartel enforcement in the EU and the US is protectionist or neutral. With globalization, individual authorities decide with increasing frequency whether to proceed with actions against foreign firms, and what penalties to impose when they are found liable. In principle, individual authorities should exhibit a neutral approach to the origin of an investigated entity – i.e. the national identities of firms should not influence enforcement actions. This paper seeks to confirm whether this is indeed the case, and is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses three potential hypotheses con­cerning the behaviour of antitrust authorities in a global context. First, authorities may follow a neutral approach according to which the national identities of firms play no role in enforcement decisions to impose a fine or its amount. Second, they may treat foreign firms more harshly than domestic firms. Third, they may focus their enforcement efforts on domestic firms and…

Joe Harrington “A Proposal for a Structural Remedy for Illegal Collusion“ Antitrust Law Journal, Forthcoming

The argument of this paper – which can be found here – is straightforward: competition authorities should use a structural remedy when penalising some cartels. The remedy would force cartel member(s) to sell productive assets to other firms for the purpose of making the market more competitive.  Given the people the author thanks, and the example he provides, I believe this was inspired by the recent Brazilian experience. The paper begins with an overview of developments in cartel sanctions over the last 30 years, including: (i) the adoption of leniency programs, (ii) a marked increase in the amount of pecuniary penalties, and (iii) the imposition of criminal sanctions. However, ‘Even if all of these developments have resulted in substantial progress in the fight against cartels, the evidence is that current enforcement falls well short of being an effective deterrent. Many cartels continue to form and operate (…). Furthermore, many of these cartels are not the product of rogue employees but…

Yannis Katsoulacos, Evgenia Motchenkova and David Ulph “Penalizing on the basis of the severity of the offence: A sophisticated revenue-based cartel penalty”

The literature on the optimal design of antitrust monetary penalties has identified four main sanctions’ regimes: damages-based, illegal gains-based, revenue–based and overcharge–based. This paper – which can be found here – analyses an alternative (fifth) regime: a sophisticated revenue-based penalty regime, in which the penalty-base is the revenue of the cartel but the penalty rate depends on (and increases with) the cartel overcharge rate. The operating assumption is that a penalty regime is better if it easier to implement, it generates less legal uncertainty, and it has a superior overall welfare impact. The authors find that, unfortunately, regimes that are superior in terms of their welfare properties are not superior (and may be inferior) in terms of the other assessment criteria we mentioned above. Their argument is that, if one takes into account a number of policy concerns other than welfare-maximisation, the sophisticated revenue-based approach emerges as a superior alternative The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 provides a…

John Connor ‘Cartels Costly for Consumers’

This working paper – which can be found here – focuses on recent trends in cartels worldwide, with a special emphasis on the economic injuries generated by illegal collusion. The basic argument is that the harm caused by cartels is immense; and that global antitrust fines for discovered international cartels were less than 1% of the economic injuries sustained (my emphasis). The data is derived from his Private International Cartels (PIC) database; in particular, he examined a sample of more than 1100 private international cartels that were discovered between January 1990 and the middle of 2015. It leads to a number of findings: The number of discovered cartels across the world has consistently increased over the last 25 years. This trend is likely related to the increasing number of jurisdictions that  have adopted competition rules and created competition agencies during this period. Affected commerce (i.e. estimates of the dollar value of commerce controlled by these cartels)  are available for about…

Jonathan Galloway ‘Securing the Legitimacy of Individual Sanctions in UK Competition Law’ (2017) World Competition 40(1) 121

This article – which you can find here – looks at attempts to impose individual sanctions for breaches of competition law in the UK. These sanctions include the recently amended criminal cartel offence – which can lead in imprisonment of up to five years – and the NCA’s power to apply for a competition disqualification order. Famously, the UK’s record in the enforcement of these sanctions is mixed (see below). To explain this state of affairs, the author identifies a tension between the economic theory of deterrence – which underpins the regime – and regulatory theory on the effectiveness sanctions – which, the author claims, has been ignored. The author points out that traditional deterrence theory relies on a combination of probability of detection and severity of punishment to create a perception of sufficiently high costs to deter wrongdoing. Yet when this leads to the imposition of very high penalties in order to counter a low probability of detection and…