Edited by Ioannis Lianos and Damien Geradin
Chapter 5: Cartels
Cartels are universally treated as the most serious infringements of competition law and are usually at the forefront of competition authorities’ enforcement efforts. Practices such as price fixing, market sharing, output restriction and bid-rigging have increasingly attracted unprecedented levels of corporate fines. In addition, the number of jurisdictions criminalizing their cartel laws has increased, allowing for the imprisonment of the individual executives responsible. Leniency programmes have become the defining feature of cartel enforcement. The costly and tricky nature of policing markets is thought to justify a mechanism through which the first infringing firm to self-report receives complete immunity from public sanctions, while subsequent firms to cooperate receive a high (albeit discounted) sanction. Such has been the reported success of leniency programmes that many competition authorities have gone on to streamline their enforcement procedures with systems of direct settlement. These ostensibly allow a speedier conclusion to cartel cases, freeing up resources to be employed investigating the next leniency application.
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