Douglas Ginsburg and John Taladay about ‘The Enduring Vitality of Comity in a Globalized World’ (2017) George Mason Law Review 24 1069

Different competition agencies apply different legal standards, procedures and approaches to identifying and redressing perceived antitrust violations. One inescapable consequence of the global proliferation of competition regimes is a much greater risk of conflict, which can take various forms and which are particularly high when an agency applies an “effects” doctrine that allows for the imposition of remedies that necessarily have an effect beyond that jurisdiction’s own borders. This article, available here,  identifies a deficit in the international coordination mechanisms that are available, and proposes an expanded use of traditional comity to ensure that international competition law enforcement produces benefits for consumers while minimising unnecessary and inappropriate interference with the legitimate interests of foreign jurisdictions. Section I looks at how the difference in the substantive standards applied by different jurisdictions can be a source of potential international conflict. A key source of tension in international competition law enforcement emanates from differences in the substantive standards applied by different jurisdictions. The…

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…

Jonathan T. Fried ‘The place of competition and development in the global trade and economic architecture’ (2017) Concurrences 1 3

The author was the Canadian ambassador to the WTO. In this piece, available here, which is the opening speech to a conference on ‘Competition and globalization in developing economies’, he argues that trade liberalisation must be accompanied by sound economic regulation that enables trade and investment to occur. Robust and effective competition law and regulation is a key element of this enabling environment, and a potential contributor to sustainable development as well. The trade and competition communities have been supporting each other’s goals, and applying similar approaches, for some time. Building on this base, there are actions that will lead to the better integration of trade and competition perspectives, while avoiding being drawn into grand debates about new forms of global governance, as has happened in the past. In a first section, the paper provides an overview of the international trade regime. From its post-war beginnings as an “interim” agreement called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (‘GATT’) through…

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…

Carsten Koenig ‘Comparing Parent Company Liability in EU and US Competition Law’ (2018) World Competition 41(1) 69

This paper, available here , contrasts how law parent companies can be fined for antitrust infringements by their subsidiaries under EU competition law, while courts in the US are reluctant to hold parent companies directly or indirectly liable in private damages suits. The author argues that one of the main reasons why EU competition law holds parent companies liable is to solve an under-deterrence problem that occurs when subsidiaries lack sufficient assets to pay fines or damages. US antitrust law uses other enforcement instruments to address under-deterrence by, in particular the individual liability of managers and employees. The article consists of four substantive parts: In section 2, the paper reviews the case law and literature on parent company liability for antitrust infringements by subsidiaries in the European Union and the United States. In the EU, the single economic entity doctrine is deeply ingrained in competition law. The European court interprets the concept of ‘undertaking’ in a functional way: it is the economic entity…

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…

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…

The Common Understanding of G7 Competition Authorities on “Competition and the Digital Economy”

While adopted on 5 June, this communique was embargoed until yesterday. It can now be found here. As it says on the tin, this document reflects the common position that the competition authorities in the G7 countries (namely, the Autoritá Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (Italy), the Autorité de la Concurrence (France), the Bundeskartellamt (Germany), the Competition Bureau (Canada), the Competition and Markets Authority (United Kingdom), the Department of Justice (United States of America), the Directorate General for Competition (European Commission), the Federal Trade Commission (United States of America) and the Japan Fair Trade Commission (Japan)) have reached on the digital economy. It may come as no surprise that the level of agreement is relatively thin, and that the document does not go into the most controversial topics addressed in the reports reviewed last week and further below. The common understanding begins with the mandatory section on the benefits of the digital economy. Investment and innovation in the digital…

Stigler Center (University of Chicago) Report on Digital Platforms

This Report, which can be found here, was written by a working group who came together to address specific problems arising from the digital platforms’ reach, scale, scope, and use of data. They examined concerns stemming from the market structure contemporary platforms have created, and to investigate their competitive behaviour, including the consequences of network effects that can create barriers to entry for new innovators and entrench incumbents. The theme that runs throughout the report is the difficulty of entry into digital platform businesses once an incumbent is established. Whether the entrant is vertical or horizontal, has succeeded to some degree, is nascent, is a potential entrant, or is a large platform in an adjacent space, market entry improves consumer welfare by either providing more choice, different features, and a chance of higher quality, or creating a threat that spurs the incumbent to provide lower prices, higher quality and innovation, and to do so more quickly. The Report is structured…

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…