The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Antitrust enforcement goes global

As one of the world’s top cops on the antitrust beat, the U.S. has long led the fight to curtail price-fixing, collusion, and other anticompetitive behavior in global commerce. And the Justice Department’s antitrust division has wielded an especially big club of late.

In each of the past two years, criminal penalties in antitrust cases have exceeded more than $1 billion, thanks to groundbreaking settlements with DOJ following investigations into collusion in interbank lending rates among banks as well as price-fixing in the global auto parts industry. The $1.4 billion in fines collected in fiscal year 2012 was the largest recovery ever for the antitrust enforcement division in a 12-month span. Fiscal 2013 wasn’t far behind, hitting $1.02 billion.

Now that sequester-mandated budget cuts have taken hold, it may be tough for Justice to score another billion-dollar bounty in the year ahead. With fewer staff and tighter resources, trying existing cases and getting new investigations in the pipeline could be a challenge for U.S. antitrust enforcers.

That said, companies engaged in international commerce should by no means slacken up on competition compliance, given all the new watchdogs on the beat worldwide. In recent years the number of anti-cartel and fair competition authorities globally has soared as a host of new countries -- including China, Mexico, India, and South Korea, to name a few -- have joined the U.S., EU and other established players in going after violators of antitrust laws.

from The Great Debate:

Don’t bank on EU’s tough state aid talk

paul-taylor-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

PARIS, April 20 (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust czar is struggling to stop governments bending EU rules on state aid to business when they rescue banks with taxpayers' money.

But Neelie Kroes' threat to force some banks to the wall unless they offer viable restructuring plans within six months of receiving state cash was economically unwise and politically inept. It could fuel political pressure to suspend the rules and weaken the European Commission's crucial watchdog powers.

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