Renata Hesse gave her first major address as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division at the Georgetown 2016 Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium. While her topic did not touch specifically on cartel enforcement, it was an interesting speech that did address the proper role of antitrust enforcement at a time when the public and Congress seem to be interested in a more vigorous approach to antitrust enforcement.
Here is one paragraph from Ms. Hesse remarks:
In my view, the tools of economics simply provide enforcers with a better means of detecting situations where companies and individuals have subverted – or threaten to subvert – the competitive process. It is our job as public servants to explain to the public why we do what we do; for example, when we use economics tools with obscure names like “Herfindahl-Hirschman Index” or “Gross Upward Pricing Pressure Index,” we are simply measuring intuitive phenomena like the concentration of economic power or the tendency of mergers to reduce competitive pressures that keep prices down. At times, we have left these concepts largely unexplained and allowed expert practice to remain isolated from popular relevance. But I believe strongly that in the last decade we have been reducing the gap between expert and popular antitrust as we have been litigating more and more cases, forcing us to explain our claims of harmed competition to lay judges and juries who must determine the rightness of our causes. Antitrust is too important to be left solely in the hands of antitrust experts. I’ll return to that trend at the end of this speech.
The full speech can be found here.
There will be a new administration in January 2017 that will continue to address the balance between economic efficiencies versus the more populist view that industries should not be dominated by one or few competitors. On the cartel front, it has been a constant theme through both Republic and Democrat administrations that cartel enforcement is the number one priority, though there can be differences on budgeting, focus of efforts and execution of the policy.