One of the ongoing debates among cartel practitioners and scholars is whether penalties are sufficient to deter cartel behavior. This question has come up in the context of possible reforms to the Sentencing Guidelines with some advocating that both jail and corporate fines need to be increased. It is also an issue being debated regarding the FTAIA and the Motorola Mobility decision—if there is deference by the US to foreign enforcement regimes, will cartels be undeterred?
In this context, I noticed three items of interest this week. They certainty don’t settle the question of whether there is a sufficient amount of deterrence, but they clearly demonstrate that deterrence is ever-increasing.
1. Conference: “The Future of Competition Law and Policy in the ASEAN Countries: Issues and Challenges”
The first item is a conference on Competition Law in ASEAN countries. The conference was inspired by the recommendation of ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Competition Policy that all ASEAN countries introduce nation-wide competition policy and law by 2015. Also, the conference is being held just before International Competition Network (ICN) annual meeting, which will take place in Sydney from April 28 to May 1st, 2015.
Panelists at the conference include:
- Aubeck Kam, Chairman, Competition Commission, Singapore
- Siti N. Yaakob, Chairman, Competition Commission, Malaysia
- Geronimo L. Sy, Former Chair, ASEAN Experts Group on Competition
- Muhammad N. Messi, President, Indonesian Commission for the Supervision of Business Competition, Jakarta
- Frédéric Jenny, Chairman, OECD Competition Committee, Paris
- Laurence Idot, Member, Competition Authority, Paris
- William E. Kovacic, Professor, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
The conference is sponsored by Concurrences Journal, in partnership with ESSEC Singapore and Sorbonne-Assas International Law School. If you’re in the neighborhood and interested in the program you can find more details here. Also, if you do attend the program and would like to write a post about the conference as its relates to the panel on “Cartels and Leniency in Asean Countries,” please let me know. I would be interested in publishing that summary.
2. Antitrust in Colombia
The government of Colombia is wrapping up an eight-year investigation of the local cement and sugar industries. “The evidence phase has concluded, and we are entering the final decision phase now,” said Pablo Felipe Robledo del Castillo, head of the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) on Monday, March 9. The investigation findings should be announced this summer. The subjects of the cement investigation were Cemex and Holcim, two companies that have been investigated by countless competition authorities around the world.
In 2014, the Colombian competition agency filed price-fixing charges against toilet paper and disposable diaper companies. The country is also considering increasing its sanctions by changing from a maximum fine of around $25 million to a fine based on a percentage of the companies’ revenues or equity.
3. Yogurt Too? (Sigh)
Just today, France fined yogurt makers over $203 million for price-fixing (here). The conspirators struck deals in hotels rooms and used special phone lines created to avoid detection. But, leniency, (the great cartel buster), prompted Yoplait (owned by General Mills) to blow the whistle. The cartels operated from 2006 to 2012.
These news reports certainly don’t answer the question of whether there is sufficient deterrence. They do show that cartel enforcement is world-wide endeavor, not just of interest in the US/EU. But, enforcement actions also show that cartels continue to be formed—even when the participants, as in the French yogurt cartel, know the conduct is illegal and take great pains to (unsuccessfully) keep the cartel secret.
Thanks for reading.