Cartel enforcement activity promises to remain busy in the coming months and into 2017
Cartel enforcement remains a priority for competition authorities around the world. Global cartel fines totaled more than $6 billion through August, putting 2016 on pace to meet or exceed last year’s annual total. Fines in the United States were lower in the first part of 2016 than they were in the same period of 2015, based largely on the absence this year of a case approaching the size of the fines handed down by the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) in connection with the foreign exchange investigation in 2015. There were still, however, several substantial fines imposed in connection with the ongoing auto parts, shipping, and capacitors investigations.
The slower fining pace of the United States was offset by very large fines imposed in the European Union, India, and Korea. The European Commission imposed its largest fine ever—nearly €3 billion ($3.3 billion)—on truck manufacturers. India followed suit with fines totaling Rs 6700 crores ($1 billion) on cement manufacturers. And Korea imposed fines of 352 billion won ($321 million) on 13 companies involved in bidding for contracts to build liquefied natural gas tanks.
Aside from a handful of large cases, the majority of cartel enforcement in 2016 was focused on domestic cartels. The USDOJ continued to work through a backlog of cases involving alleged collusion in real estate foreclosure auctions, with many trials scheduled for late 2016 and early 2017. Elsewhere, investigations of domestic cartels in basic necessities and commodities resulted in significant fines and enforcement proceedings.