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Blowing The Whistle On Cartels

Posted  February 21, 2012

The question of whether U.S. antitrust enforcement should emulate foreign whistleblower rewards programs as part of a crackdown on cartels is analyzed in a recent article by a Constantine Cannon attorney: Making it Easier to Whistle While You Work.

Cartel detection and prosecution are top priorities for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“Antitrust Division”) – regardless of which political party occupies the White House.  Given the often secretive nature of cartels, however, they can be hard to detect.  The Antitrust Division relies on its Corporate Leniency Program to encourage self-reporting of cartel activity, by offering immunity and/or reduced sanctions.

As important as leniency programs are, however, they are limited.  Given their narrow focus on those at the heart of the cartel, corporate leniency programs fail to offer people who are aware of, but not complicit in, cartel activity with any incentive to report illegal activity.  This absence of an antitrust informant rewards program undoubtedly means that much cartel activity victimizing U.S. consumers goes unreported.

Over the past 10 years, four jurisdictions – South Korea, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Hungary – have addressed the limitations of their corporate leniency programs by adding an antitrust informant, or whistleblower, rewards program.  Each jurisdiction noted that the aim of adding a rewards program was to increase reporting from those who are either uninvolved in, or on the periphery, of a cartel.

The article, Making it Easier to Whistle While You Work, concludes that like the foreign jurisdictions mentioned above, the U.S. would benefit from a whistleblower reward program as part of a comprehensive and modern approach to aggressive antitrust enforcement.

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,