Jonathan Branton and Bróna Heenan of UK law firm DWF discuss recent anti-cartel cases and the European Commission’s intention to investigate anti-competitive practices in the food and agriculture sectors
The European Commission’s efforts to combat anti-competitive practices were boosted by the introduction of leniency for whistleblowers. Its Leniency Notices were first adopted in 1996 and later revised in 2002 and again in 2006. While the 1996 Notice only guaranteed a 75% reduction in fines to the first company to report a cartel, the 2002 Notice introduced full immunity for those who were first through the door. Companies had an incentive to spill the beans on cartel activity in the EU. Different regimes applied in jurisdictions outside the EU (and indeed within the EU in cases where only national markets were affected) which in turn required a delicate and complicated analysis by competition lawyers, particularly where global cartels were concerned.
What is coming down the track?
The work of the Commission continues at a breathtaking pace, stimulated by the immunity/leniency offered to companies through its Commission Leniency Notices. Recent anti-cartel actions have taken aim at industries as diverse as manufacturers of high-voltage cables and canned mushrooms. In April, the EC imposed fines totaling EUR302 million on 11 companies which produce high-voltage transmission and distribution cables for the power sector, finding that they had coordinated their approach to mark...