The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
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.
UBS, Switzerland and the United States can all claim a sort of victory from the settlement on Wednesday of their tax dispute.
UBS gets to avoid a fine that -- according to the Swiss justice minister -- would have threatened its existence. The Americans get the details of some 4,450 accounts that they say have held up to $18 billion, on which fat taxes may be payable. And the Swiss get to draw a line under a threat to their fundamental banking secrecy.