London

The future of cartels: Classes, claims and criminals

Workshop organised by Concurrences Review with Deborah Wilkie (CMA), in partnership with Skadden and CRA.

Bruce Macaulay introduced the theme of workshop and the panel. He presented the main topics to be discussed during the session, including the CMA’s priorities, the BritNed landmark decision, the economics of damages claims and current enforcement trends.

  • Priorities of the CMA

Deborah Wilkie shared some of the trends coming out of CMA’s cartel work and focused on a few of them. She first reminded that the leniency approach to cartels will only work if companies and individuals perceive a significant risk of detection. Almost half of cartel investigations since 2010 have been intelligence-led. The CMA decided to use its full range of investigatory powers, notably the covert investigative power, including intrusive surveillance. This included investing in digital forensic capabilities and the creation of a data science team. The CMA also operates a cartel hotline and is one of the few competition authorities to adopt large informants rewards, up to 100,000£ for information about cartel activity. The CMA is also committed to using individual sanctions, including disqualification orders and criminal prosecutions to strengthen the incentives to apply for leniency. The competition disqualification orders are an area where the CMA has made significant progress, with a first decision in 2016. A large campaign was launched to increase awareness of competition law in businesses after the success of the previous awareness campaign to help businesses be compliant, which also saw a 30% rise in tip-offs to the CMA’s cartel hotline. The data science team is also committed to getting a greater understanding of the firms’use of data in their business models and the implications for competition and consumers. It is also leading the reflection on how the CMA obtains and uses data in ongoing work, engages with tech businesses and academics as well as using governmental data. The CMA makes available to local councils a cartel screening tool using algorithms to spot unusual bidder behaviour and pricing patterns. Regarding Brexit, the CMA has already taken measures to face the expected increase in workload resulting from the larger cases currently handled by the European commission.

Photos © Emilie Gomez

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Speakers

  • Monckton Chambers (London)
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (Brussels)
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (London)
  • British Competition Authority - CMA (London)
  • CRA International (London)