Economic and Legal Implications for the EU Member States
Edited by Katalin J. Cseres, Maarten Pieter Schinkel and Floris O.W. Vogelaar
Chapter 12: Cartels: A United States Story, and a Research Program for the World
Eleanor M. Fox 1 INTRODUCTION The United States was the ﬁrst jurisdiction to have systematically enforced antitrust laws. Violation of the US Sherman Antitrust Act is a crime. Criminal enforcement is, however, essentially limited to cases against hard core cartels. The US story is a success story. Criminal enforcement is robust. Virtually every US antitrust chief through time has focused on cartels as a priority. The arsenal of tools against cartels is impressive: strong detection and enforcement techniques including wire taps, high ﬁnes and jail terms, a strong and clear leniency program to help identify cartels and destabilize them, and a system of private enforcement with treble damages. Each year, scores of grand juries are convened to investigate cartels; most of the ensuing cases are settled for large ﬁnes and sometimes prison terms. The notorious vitamins case was settled by the US government and the ring leader for $500 million, and vitamin company ofﬁcials went to jail. Cartels are indeed harmful to consumers and the economy in general,1 and the US record against them would seem to reﬂect great success. There is one hitch: how many cartels go undeterred and undetected we will never know. We do know, however, that there is an observed increase in global or cross-border cartels, and we can deduce that either antitrust enforcers are simply detecting more cartels, or that, despite agencies’ increased vigilance, cartel activity is increasing.2 Thus, success is relative. We can do only the best we can, chipping away...
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