By Gordon Schnell (Published in Competition Policy International)
Corporate leniency. It is for most countries these days the key foundation to cartel enforcement. Encouraging the wrongdoers to come forward, confess their antitrust transgressions, expose their co-conspirators, and receive absolution or some form of leniency in return. By most accounts, these programs have worked fairly well. Some would argue they have been a game-changer in the fight against cartels. Just look at the record number of enforcement successes across the globe. Most spawned from a leniency application. It is hard to argue that corporate leniency has not led to real results.
But you have to wonder, is trying to team up with the antitrust offenders really the best way to go about uncovering, and ultimately discouraging, cartels? Based on the unremitting flow of cartel activity that still exists, it seems apparent it is not or, at the very least, could use a serious boost. What is more, there are several problems inherent in an enforcement model that relies on and essentially rewards the very offenders that should be punished. We are well past the time to taking a step back from our unwavering devotion to corporate leniency and focusing on other equally, if not more, effective enforcement tools. Top of the list — a full-fledged, all-encompassing antitrust whistleblower system.
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