Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for January 8th, 2015

And the 2014 winner is…

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 (by Sam Villiers, Garrigues, Brussels, not pictured below)


With the Golden Globes this weekend and the Oscars fast approaching, the 2014 awards season is officially upon us. In this light, the FT ran an interesting piece yesterday (see here) on the highlights of 2014….in the world of cartel fines. I don’t know whether one can accurately describe there being ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in cartels, but the article – based on a report by A&O (see here) – certainly highlights some interesting general trends in global cartel fining.

The report explains that total cartel fines dished out by the world’s competition authorities in 2014 reached a new level of $5.3bn, up 31% on the previous year’s (record breaking) total. And the nominees are…..sorry, I mean…the markets handing out the most fines in 2014 are:

  • Europe leads the way, having handed out €1.7 bn ($2.3 bn), although didn’t quite make it to the giddy heights of its 2013 level of €2.5bn. The report picks out the German and French competition authorities as having enjoyed particularly vintage years.
  • Brazil’s CADE (Administrative Council for Economic Defense) had a record-breaking year, with cartel fines totaling $1.6 bn. This figure includes the imposition of the second largest fine ever given by a competition watchdog, that of $1.39 bn for a decades-long cement cartel.
  • South Korea’s KFTC also broke its fining record, doling out an impressive $1.01 bn worth of fines.
  • In the 2014 fiscal year, the US DOJ Antitrust Division imposed a modest $861m of fines, 15% down from the previous year. Plus, the lion’s share of this total came from fines handed out to the auto parts cartelists.

It is quite hard to discern too many long-term trends from these isolated 2014 numbers as cartel investigations are characterised by such long gestation periods; the time between the opening of a case file and the final decision by an authority or court can take years. It would perhaps be more indicative of general trends if one could look at the total fines given over 5 or 10 year cycles. In any case, the numbers are interesting in themselves.

One general trend that did particularly catch my eye – in the context of the debates around reform of competition enforcement in Europe – is the seemingly large number of jurisdictions allowing individual offenders to face prison sentences. It is interesting to note that in 2014 a Brazilian court imposed a 10 year prison sentence (and a $156m fine) on an executive for bid rigging. At the level of DG Comp, I would imagine that we are some time away from this.

Oh, and one final point: according to the FT, bistros (the noisy, French variety one would presume – easier not to be overheard ;-)) and hotels were shown to be the preferred cartelist meeting spots. Not surprising I guess, but zero points for imagination…  That said, if anyone reading this is in search of a cartel venue, I hear Alfonso’s parents have a special offer for cartellists at their hotel 😉

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

8 January 2015 at 11:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized