Skip to main content

Continued Commitment to International Enforcement

Antitrust Division Spring Update 2021

The year 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. During this hallmark year, the Antitrust Division continued its long tradition of working closely with competition agencies from around the globe to advance competition enforcement and policy.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division’s International Section fully transitioned to a virtual workspace. This shift enabled the Division to continue its important international work while supporting the health and best interests of the global community. To facilitate the change, the Division leveraged its existing bilateral relationships and ties to multilateral organizations, such as the OECD and ICN, to sustain communication and cooperation despite these challenging times.

Cooperation Agreements

One of the Antitrust Division’s most significant international achievements of the past year is the signing of the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC) in September 2020. The MMAC, signed with competition agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, builds on these competition agencies’ prior multilateral agreements and robust record of collaboration while simultaneously creating a new model cooperation agreement. The model agreement is expected to serve as a template for subsequent agreements among signatories that would facilitate future cooperation in both criminal and civil matters. Though the signatories could not gather in person for the signing ceremony, the MMAC’s virtual signing further demonstrates the Division’s adaptability and steadfast commitment to its partners in cross-border competition enforcement.

In November 2020, the Division also entered into another important agreement—a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Korean Prosecution Service. The MOU is a testament to the deepening cooperative relationship between the Division and the Korean Prosecution Service on cartel investigations and policy issues. The MOU also encourages the agencies to host joint training programs and to share information on policy and enforcement developments.

Bilateral Cooperation

In FY 2020, Antitrust Division case teams cooperated with 15 competition agencies on 26 merger and civil nonmerger matters. Similarly, the Division cooperated with numerous competition agencies in its cross-border cartel investigations. Many of these matters involved coordination with multiple competition agencies.

For example, in reviewing the proposed merger of McGraw-Hill and Cengage, the Division worked closely with a number of competition agencies, including the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, the New Zealand Commerce Commission, and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. In another example, the Division cooperated closely with the Israel Competition Authority and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority in connection with the proposed merger of Taboola and Outbrain.

The Division also underscored its commitment to bringing fugitives to justice. Working closely with the Department’s Criminal Division Office of International Affairs and their international counterparts, the Division extradited two fugitives from Europe during FY 2020. The first defendant was a former air cargo executive who was indicted for her involvement in a long-running worldwide conspiracy to fix prices of air cargo. She was extradited from Italy and pled guilty in January 2020. The second defendant was a former automotive parts executive who was indicted for his role in an international market allocation and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of instrument panel clusters to several automobile producers. He was extradited from Germany and pled guilty in March 2020.

On these matters and numerous others, international cooperation facilitated effective investigations and enforcement. For example, the Division worked closely with several competition agencies to accommodate parties’ requests to proceed with depositions remotely, sometimes from foreign countries, in order to avoid travel during the pandemic. Our international counterparts helped the Division understand and comply with potential international legal obligations associated with taking depositions remotely. This invaluable cooperation allowed the Division to advance its investigations while allowing witnesses to remain safely in or near their homes.

Another Division initiative was to share its enforcement experience with foreign jurisdictions, providing information on established best practices in support of sister agencies for the benefit of appellate courts reviewing their decisions. Under this “international amicus” effort, the Division provided support to two agencies relating to cartel enforcement, and held discussions with other agencies.

Multilateral Cooperation

The Antitrust Division also worked closely with international colleagues through multilateral organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and International Competition Network (ICN).

Among its myriad undertakings, the Division, along with the FTC, made substantial contributions to the preparation of forthcoming OECD recommendations on transparency and procedural fairness and on competitive neutrality. A delegation from the Division also participated in virtual meetings of the OECD’s Competition Committee in June 2020 and December 2020. Topics discussed this year in the Competition Committee included conglomerate effects of mergers, killer acquisitions, the role of competition policy in promoting economic recovery, and criminalization of cartels and bid-rigging markets. The U.S. submissions on these topics, as well as the submissions by other OECD members, are available on the OECD Competition Committee’s website.

In the ICN, the Division led efforts to develop “Guidance on Enhancing Cross-Border Leniency Cooperation.” Published in July 2020, the guidance addresses key areas of coordination between competition agencies and provides practical tips for the day-to-day issues confronting agency case teams. The guidance aims to make international enforcement efforts more effective and reduce disincentives for prospective leniency applicants. The Division also continued to lead efforts to implement the Framework on Competition Agency Procedures (CAP). Since its launch in May 2019, over 70 competition agencies have committed to strengthening procedural fairness in competition enforcement via the CAP.

The Division and the FTC also co-hosted the first virtual ICN Annual Conference in September 2020. The conference examined a range of competition enforcement and policy issues, including those involving the digital economy. Over 2500 delegates from around the world participated, including agency leadership and staff, as well as competition experts from international organizations and legal, business, and academic communities.

Then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers participates in the ICN 2020 virtual conference.
Richard Powers participates in the ICN 2020 virtual conference.

Technical Assistance

As a part of its virtual transition, the Antitrust Division began providing technical assistance to competition agencies entirely through digital communications platforms. Administering these programs virtually made them more accessible, leading to a greater number of events with higher attendance rates from both Division staff and participating jurisdictions.

In FY 2020, the Division participated in 24 technical assistance programs for numerous jurisdictions, including Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Lithuania, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Spain, and Ukraine. Of these programs, nine were in-person and 15 were virtual.

Updated April 17, 2024