In the first half of 2023, antitrust enforcers remained remarkably busy both in the United States (US) and across the European Union (EU). The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Antitrust Division (Division) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have continued their aggressive and novel effort to drag antitrust enforcement into the labor markets. The DOJ Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) has pursued its crackdown on antitrust and fraud involving government procurement with a number of recent cases. And DOJ has pushed the boundaries under Section 2 of the Sherman Act—both by revitalizing the criminal provisions of the law and by pursuing “attempts” to monopolize criminally. The European Union has also kept the pressure on those doing business overseas, imposing significant fines in recent matters and upgrading its online leniency program to make it easier for companies to report wrongdoing.
In this installment of Cartel Corner, we examine this continued aggressiveness toward antitrust enforcement. While these government enforcement efforts have not always been successful, they have nonetheless reframed the landscape for many companies and individuals. What was once thought of as a civil antitrust violation at worst—or no violation at all—is now often pursued criminally. And antitrust enforcers are speaking in more strident tones as they attempt to remake, in certain ways, the way companies do business in the United States and abroad.
Whether antitrust enforcers are ultimately successful remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the trend is real, and it is one that all companies should be prepared to address in the weeks and months to come.