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DOJ Calls For Greater International Antitrust Cooperation

Posted  October 3, 2012

The expansion of international cooperation in antitrust enforcement in recent years is likely to continue and benefit both businesses and consumers, according to a top U.S. antitrust enforcer.

Joseph Wayland, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, surveyed the benefits of international cooperation among antitrust authorities in a recent speech at the International Bar Association’s Annual Competition Conference in Florence, Italy.

According to Wayland, international cooperation helps to achieve three principal purposes of antitrust enforcement – increasing the understanding of the competitive process, the effectiveness of competition enforcement, and the efficiency of global enforcement in order to facilitate and promote economic activity to the benefit of consumers.

Wayland suggested that greater coordination of antitrust enforcement at the international level would help companies understand competition rulings and lessen the chances of companies facing unfair penalties in multiple jurisdictions.

“Our goal as antitrust authorities should be to avoid, as much as possible in a multi-authority world, imposing inconsistent, conflicting, or inefficient rules on businesses, either generally or in individual cases,” Wayland said.

Wayland argued that increased cooperation was leading to more effective enforcement.  With greater globalization, it is necessary for competition regulators to learn how competition works in markets that are no longer just local in scope.

Wayland gave several examples of international cooperation in investigating and prosecuting cartels that operate across national borders.  In the Auto Parts investigation, the Antitrust Division worked with its enforcement counterparts in Japan, the European Union, Canada and other antitrust agencies around the world.  The Antitrust Division has already obtained criminal fines of nearly $800 million as a result of that investigation.

The Antitrust Division has also worked closely with the European Commission on civil enforcement matters, such as the e-books matter, which led to the Division filing a lawsuit – U.S. v. Apple, Inc. – against Apple and five of the largest book publishers in the U.S., alleging that they had conspired to increase the prices of e-books.  While three of the publishers settled, the Antitrust Division is continuing to litigate against Apple and the other two publishers.

Finally, Wayland discussed how international antitrust cooperation can increase economic activity that benefits consumers.   He noted that recent international coordination among competition authorities has helped consumers, who largely bear the costs of cartels and monopolies.

For example, the Antitrust Division, the European Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau coordinated their enforcement activities in reviewing the United Technologies/Goodrich transaction – the largest merger in the history of the aircraft industry – which enabled the antitrust enforcers to agree on what conditions needed to be met for the merging parties to address the competitive concerns that were raised both in the U.S. and internationally.

To make compliance easier, all three agencies approved the merger on the same day and coordinated the conditions imposed on the merger for approval.

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,