EU enforcement activities continue to expand
The latest cartel enforcement statistics for the EC, released at the end of the financial year, indicate that the volume of cartel cases being decided and the fines imposed in the EU continue to increase. The figures for the first half of 2014 offer four key insights.
First, the year so far has seen a significant increase in the number of cartel cases decided by the EC. As at 25 June 2014, six decisions had already been made – more than any year since 2010 (with seven decisions), with six months still to work out.
Second, fines imposed at the midway point of 2014 total €1.438 billion – already more than 75% of the totals for each of 2013 and 2012. These cases bring the figure for the period 2010-2014 to €8.449 billion overall, an increase on previous periods.
|2010-2014 (YTD)||€8.449 billion|
Department of Justice figures, while not yet available for 2014, indicate fines of a similar magnitude in recent years. US criminal antitrust fines totalled $1.1 billion in each of the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. In the US, where individuals can also be sentenced to serve time for criminal cartel conduct, the average sentence length between 2010 and 2013 was 25 months, while the average total length of all prison sentences handed down for antitrust offences between 2010 and 2013 was 22,798 days each year.
Third, 38 EC cartel decisions per business entity have been made thus far in 2014 – double last year’s total, and again the highest since 2010 (69).
Fourth, the level of penalties imposed in individual investigations remains significant in the first half of 2014. The fine imposed in the automotive bearings case totalled €953.3 million – the fourth highest in a single cartel case since 1969. Schaeffler incurred €370.48 million of that total, which is the eighth highest fine imposed on any single entity in that period. By comparison, the largest cumulative fine in ACCC history related to the air cargo proceedings – at the end of 2013 pecuniary penalties totalling $98.5 million had been imposed, with the liability of Air New Zealand and Garuda yet to be determined.
As part of the Harper Review, the Panel is considering whether the penalties available are effective in furthering the objectives of the CCA. While many, such as the Law Council of Australia, have submitted that the current penalty regime is adequate in achieving its objectives, others (such as Professor Caron Beaton-Wells and Brent Fisse) think that the level of monetary penalties imposed by the Courts have been too low, and the level of civil pecuniary penalties available against individuals in particular should be increased.
We will keep you posted.
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