Message from Sharis Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General
We have put in place a structure to allow for the most efficient and effective enforcement approach. For example, during the last three years, we established a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation position who works closely with our expert career staff to further refine and advance our litigation strategies and skills. Most recently, we established a new career position, Director of Litigation, who will continue to build on the Division’s institutional litigation expertise. Mark Ryan is the first Director of Litigation and joins the rest of our Operations team, who as seasoned, career directors ensure that both the substance and the quality of our work are rock-solid. This team also ensures that the Division’s resources are used in the most effective and efficient manner. We also established an Office of the General Counsel, led by Bob Kramer, which is fully active, serving as the institutional repository of legal issues and standards that cut across both the civil and criminal programs, as well as ensuring consent decree compliance.
Our criminal program has had remarkable successes over the past year, successfully thwarting anticompetitive conduct in a variety of industries on the domestic and international fronts that are important to American consumers and businesses. For example, our focus on large, international cartel cases is evidenced in our ongoing auto parts investigation, which already resulted in nearly $750 million in fines and eight individuals agreeing to serve significant prison sentences.
In addition, we also continue to root out anticompetitive activity affecting our local communities, and our ongoing matters in the financial sector and real estate industries are just two examples of that work. Our ongoing prosecution of bid-rigging in the municipal bonds market involves the financial instruments and transactions used to invest the proceeds of, or manage the risks associated with, the bonds issued by municipalities and other public entities. These bonds support critical municipal infrastructure like roads, schools, and other projects. To date that matter has resulted in criminal charges against 18 former executives of various financial services companies and one corporation. Twelve of the 18 executives charged have pleaded guilty, including three executives who pleaded guilty on the eve of trial. The investigation also has produced numerous resolutions with large financial institutions implicated in the schemes, which have agreed to pay a combined total of nearly $745 million in restitution, penalties, and disgorgement to Federal and State agencies for their roles in the conduct.
In our investigation and prosecution of collusion targeted at the U.S. real estate market, we have charged 38 individuals and one corporation around the country who engaged in collusive schemes aimed at eliminating competition at real estate foreclosure auctions.
Civil merger enforcement also continues to be a major focus for the Division, and merger review has increased in recent years as more proposed transactions have come before the antitrust agencies. Even with this increase, our approach has remained steadfast. When a transaction does not pose a threat to competition, the Division determines quickly that no further action is currently warranted. When a transaction is anticompetitive and the parties do not propose an effective remedy, we are prepared to block. In this regard, the Division has had notable success over this last two years—in its lawsuits to challenge H&R Block’s acquisition of TaxACT, AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile, and George’s proposed acquisition of a Tyson Foods Harrisonburg, Virginia, chicken processing complex.
However, when parties to a proposed transaction propose remedies to resolve the competitive concerns, the Division is prepared to enter into a consent decree to effectively preserve competition and allow the transaction to proceed. Our settlement in BCBS Montana/New West is one such example in the health care sector.
Civil nonmerger enforcement remains a priority, including through our ongoing cases challenging anticompetitive activity in the financial services and health care sectors.
The Division’s prioritization of enhanced international coordination has been evident from the start of this administration, with the appointment early on of a Special Advisor for International matters, and continues today. This emphasis has resulted in significant case cooperation across jurisdictions; developing new and deeper relationships with emerging economies such as China and India; and promoting concepts of procedural fairness and transparency. As a testament to our long history of working with our international counterparts, in 2011, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our bilateral cooperation agreement with the European Commission, an ongoing success story marked by consistent enforcement policies directed at the goal of promoting consumer welfare.
Finally, all of our efforts have served to further increase transparency in our enforcement. The goal of increased transparency is evidenced in the release of the revised 2010 Horizontal Merger Guidelines, the Division’s updated remedies guide, and our updated U.S./EU merger best practices. The importance of transparency also has influenced our competition advocacy work. For example, we joined the Federal Trade Commission in issuing a joint policy statement detailing how the Agencies will enforce U.S. antitrust laws with respect to new accountable care organizations (ACOs).
It has been a remarkable year, and with the continued leadership of the Department and the Division’s management and the dedication of the career staff, I know we will have continued success in the years to come.