Director-General for Competition, European Commission
Fighting cartels in Europe and the US: different systems,
Annual Conference of the International Bar Association (IBA)
Boston, 9 October 2013
The speakers here at this panel at the IBA in Boston come from all over the world. Even
more countries are represented in the audience, all with different legal systems.
Yet our goals are the same: we all think cartels should be fought wherever possible. Our
goals are similar because our analysis of cartels is basically the same: we consider them
harmful, because they obstruct competition, harm consumers and stifle innovation.
We could even say that, broadly defined, our methods are the same. Most anti-cartel
enforcement regimes use a carrot-and-stick approach, with fines and sanctions on the
one hand, and leniency programmes and settlements or plea bargaining on the other.
Now let me look at some differences. Not because I want to dwell on what divides us,
but as a vehicle to explain the policies that I want to discuss today, specifically our
policies regarding fines, leniency, settlements and compliance in EU enforcement.
There are differences of language. They say that Britain and the US are two nations
divided by a common language. Something similar might be said about competition law
in Europe and the US. We use the word “undertakings,” you speak of “companies.” The
difference has implications for parental liability: The DoJ targets an identified legal
entity. We target the group to which the infringing entity belongs.
There are also more substantive differences. I think it is safe to say that the attitude
towards criminal sanctions is probably the most important difference in the approach
towards cartels on both sides of the Atlantic.
I would like to use a quote by former deputy assistant attorney general Scott Hammond
to illustrate the US point of view....