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Procurement Collusion Strike Force’s Focus on Detection Yielding New Investigations

On March 3, 2020, the American Bar Association (ABA) hosted a Q&A with two members of the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF)—Mark Grundvig, the Assistant Chief of the DOJ Antitrust Division’s Criminal II section, and Marcus Mills, Special Agent, Major Fraud Investigations Division, USPS Office of Inspector General. During the course of the Q&A, Mr. Grundvig and Mr. Mills provided their perspective on the goals and progress of the PCSF. WHAT HAPPENED: The PCSF representatives explained that the PCSF is heavily focused on improving detection of per se antitrust violations such as bid-rigging, price-fixing and market-allocation. To improve detection, the PCSF is: Training agents on per se antitrust violations and other anticompetitive conduct to improve agents’ ability to spot antitrust violations; Training industry participants via tradeshows and industry conferences on per se antitrust violations and other anticompetitive conduct to increase...

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THE LATEST: DOJ’s Packaged Seafood Probe Yields Conditional Leniency Applicant

On Monday, September 11, Tri-Union Seafoods LLC, the US subsidiary of Thai Union Group, announced it blew the whistle on competitors in the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation of the packaged seafood industry. The “Chicken of the Sea” canned tuna manufacturer also said it received conditional leniency from DOJ in exchange for its cooperation. WHAT HAPPENED: In 2015, DOJ began investigating the packaged seafood industry for anticompetitive conduct, including price fixing. DOJ’s investigation followed a failed merger between Thai Union and Bumble Bee Foods LLC. In May 2017, Bumble Bee pleaded guilty to violations of Sherman Act Section One. Bumble Bee agreed to fix the price of shelf-stable tuna fish from as early as the first quarter of 2011 through at least the fourth quarter of 2013. The company agreed to pay a $25 million fine, which was substantially reduced to protect the company from insolvency. Two Bumble Bee executives also pleaded guilty....

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European Commission Provides Guidance on Disclosure of Leniency Documents

by Philip Bentley QC, Philipp Werner and Christoph Voelk In response to a request from the English High Court, which is currently reviewing a cartel damage claim, the European Commission has submitted an amicus curiae brief on the disclosure of leniency documents.  The Commission’s opinion is that national courts should not order the disclosure of leniency documents prepared specifically for the purpose of an application under the EU leniency programme.  In contrast, the applicant’s reply to the statement of objections and the replies to requests for information could be ordered to be disclosed, insofar as they do not concern leniency material. To read the full article, click here.

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Access to Cartel Settlement Documents for Plaintiffs in France

by Philipp Werner and Lionel Lesur A French court has added another layer of complexity to cartel cases in the European Union.  The Commercial Court in Paris has ordered the French competition authority to disclose documents relating to an antitrust investigation.  The order concerns non-confidential versions of written and oral statements gathered during the investigation. The ruling may strengthen plaintiffs' position in damages actions.  The French court's ruling only concerns settlements before the French competition authority but other European countries may follow France's lead.  According to the European Court of Justice's recent Pfleiderer judgement, national courts must decide whether plaintiffs may have access to documents submitted to national Member State authorities. The number of private damages actions in the European Union is constantly increasing.  Most of these actions are "follow-on action," based on...

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Top EU Court Rules That Companies May Have Access to Leniency Statements Submitted to National Competition Authorities

by Martina Maier, Philipp Werner and David Henry The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling of 14 June 2011 followed a case that originated in Germany.  Pfleiderer, a firm in the wood industry, was considering a damages claim against members of a paper cartel.  It sought access to the cartel files held by the German Competition Authority (FCO) in order to substantiate its claim.  A dispute followed over whether disclosing the documents of companies who had cooperated with the FCO would undermine the national leniency programme since potential leniency applicants would fear eventual disclosure. A German court asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling whether or not the provisions of EU competition law are to be interpreted as meaning that cartel victims can be granted access to leniency applications received by an EU Member State competition authority. The ECJ has held  that it was for the courts and tribunals of each EU Member State on the...

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