The decline and fall of the leniency programme in Europe

The authors explore the reasons behind the reduction in immunity applications for cartels in Europe. This confirms the Commission’s reliance on immunity applications to uncover cartels, discusses the features of the current regime for applicants in detail, and assesses whether the benefits and disadvantages of the immunity regime have changed over time. The analysis is based on a number of original and new statistics tracing the relative dependence on, and alleged benefits of, the European immunity regime. These have been compiled based on the Commission’s cartel infringement decisions over recent ‎years. [1]

I. Introduction 1. Behind this provocative title hides a worrying reality for anti-cartel enforcement by the European Commission—and possibly national competition authorities (“NCAs”) within the EU [2]: the noticeable decrease of the number of immunity applications over the last several years, and the resulting impact on the Commission’s ability to detect cartels. [3] One—very optimistic—explanation is that the compliance message has finally hit home and companies engage less in cartel behaviour—and therefore fewer immunity applications are submitted. Probably, a more realistic explanation is that companies, upon discovering their involvement in illegal cartel behaviour, no longer have the knee-jerk reaction to engage in a race for immunity, but instead seek to find alternative ways to

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  • Covington & Burling (Brussels)
  • Covington & Burling (Brussels)


Johan Ysewyn, Siobhan Kahmann, The decline and fall of the leniency programme in Europe, February 2018, Concurrences N° 1-2018, Art. N° 86060, pp. 44-59

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