International Program Update 2015

International Program Update 2015

Division Update Spring 2015

The Antitrust Division’s longstanding commitment to international enforcement and policy cooperation, bilateral and multilateral activities, and technical assistance continued during the past year. The Division worked with enforcers on many civil and criminal investigations, conducted bilateral meetings with Canada, Japan, Korea, and Mexico, and enthusiastically supported the policy work of multilateral organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Competition Network (ICN).

Leading on International Enforcement Cooperation

International enforcement cooperation for criminal investigations remains a priority. Over the past year, the Division worked closely with the Japanese Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) and enforcers from several other jurisdictions in the Division’s ongoing auto parts investigation. Thus far, the auto parts investigation and other investigations have resulted in U.S. charges against more than 50 executives and 30 companies, including more than $2.4 billion in criminal fines for participation in bid-rigging conspiracies and price fixing on a range of auto parts. 

The Division strives to hold accountable wrongdoers from both the United States and overseas. In April 2014, Romano Pisciotti became the first person extradited to the U.S. on an antitrust charge. An Italian national, Mr. Pisciotti was extradited from Germany on a charge of participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids, fixing prices, and allocating market shares for sales of marine hose in the United States and elsewhere; he subsequently pled guilty.

In November 2014, John Bennett, a Canadian businessman and former CEO of Bennett Environmental, was extradited to the United States to face federal kickback conspiracy and fraud charges. Mr. Bennett is charged with providing kickbacks to the project manager at an environmental cleanup site in New Jersey, where Bennett Environmental was responsible for the removal, treatment, and disposal of contaminated soil, in order to influence the award of subcontracts at the site, and to inflate the prices charged to the Environmental Protection Agency by the prime contractor.

The Division also cooperated with its international counterparts on 13 significant civil investigations—often pursuant to waivers from parties and third parties. More than half of these investigations involved cooperation with multiple jurisdictions. In Continental/Veyance, for example, the Division worked with its counterparts in Brazil, Canada, and Mexico over the course of its investigation into Continental AG’s proposed $1.8 billion acquisition of Veyance. Without divestiture, the proposed merger would have left only two dominant firms in the North American market for commercial vehicle air springs, which are used in truck, trailer, and bus suspensions. The coordinated effort allowed the four national enforcers to share their analyses while developing remedies tailored to most locally important issues.

During the Division’s investigation of Louisiana-Pacific’s proposed acquisition of Ainsworth, the Division worked with the Canadian Competition Bureau (CCB) to ensure coordinated review of the matter consistent with the agencies’ agreement on Best Practices on Cooperation in Cross-Border Merger Investigations. The Division and CCB conducted joint witness interviews and CCB attorneys attended party depositions taken by the Division. Division and CCB economists shared data and analysis, and the agencies’ attorneys held frequent calls on theories of harm and analytical approach. Louisiana-Pacific eventually abandoned the transaction after the Division and CCB expressed serious concerns about likely anticompetitive effects.

Strengthening Bilateral Relationships

In addition to cooperating on specific investigations, the Division maintains close bilateral relationships with fellow competition enforcers abroad to foster cooperation on policy issues.

In September 2014, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Colombian antitrust agency, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce. The agreement will promote cooperation and understanding of the respective agencies' antitrust laws.

L-R AAG Bill Baer, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Ambassador of Colombia Luis Carlos Villegas

L-R Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Ambassador of Colombia to the United States Luis Carlos Villegas

In November 2014, the Division and the FTC conducted bilateral meetings in Tokyo with the JFTC and in Seoul with the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). At meetings in Japan, the Division and FTC discussed enforcement developments and priorities, international cooperation, and social welfare.

Senior officials from the Department of Justice, the FTC, and the JFTC at a bilateral meeting

Senior officials from the Department of Justice, the FTC, and the JFTC at a bilateral meeting

The meeting in Seoul marked the first time that an Assistant Attorney General has participated in a bilateral meeting in Korea between the Division and its Korean counterparts.

Senior officials from the Department of Justice, the FTC, and the KFTC at a bilateral meeting

Senior officials from the Department of Justice, the FTC, and the KFTC at a bilateral meeting

In December 2014, the Division and FTC hosted a delegation led by Deputy Director General Wu Zhenguo of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, one of three Chinese antimonopoly agencies, to discuss recent antitrust developments in China and the United States.

The Division has also worked with our Chinese counterparts as part of broader U.S. Government participation in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June 2014, and in the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in December 2014. As a result of these meetings, both U.S. and Chinese enforcers recognized that antimonopoly law enforcement should address harm to competition and not promote individual competitors or industries. In addition, our Chinese counterparts clarified issues related to procedural fairness, transparency, and nondiscrimination in their antimonopoly law enforcement.

The Division maintained its close working relationship with the CCB and participated in a variety of exchanges and visits over the course of the year, including cartel and merger bilateral meetings, in Washington D.C.

Building Closer Ties with Other Antitrust Enforcers

Since 2011, the Visiting International Enforcers Program has served to increase mutual understanding and build relations with enforcement partners around the world. As a part of this program, the Division hosted three visiting enforcers during the last year, one from the European Commission’s Directorate General of Competition, one from the United Kingdom’s Competition and Market Authority, and one from the JFTC. In addition, Division managers have served as visiting enforcers with the JFTC and worked with the European Commission’s Directorate General of Competition at its offices in Brussels.

In addition to the visiting enforcers program, the Division participated in and presented at workshops related to substantive and procedural antitrust issues around the globe, hosted by antitrust agencies in Brazil, China, and Korea, and provided training through technical assistance programs with a variety of countries, including Honduras, Panama, Peru, South Africa, and India. The Division’s technical assistance programs dispense practical advice on a variety of enforcement and competition policy subjects, including leniency programs, merger enforcement, and drafting antitrust laws.

Engaging in Multilateral Dialogue

The Antitrust Division remains active in the competition work of OECD, ICN, and other multilateral organizations. The Division’s involvement in these organizations allows it to maintain relationships with a broader group of international antitrust agencies and promote sound antitrust policy, such as procedural fairness and transparency.  

The Division has been involved with the work of the OECD’s Competition Committee for more than 50 years, and Assistant Attorney General Baer currently chairs the Committee’s Working Party No. 3 on Cooperation and Enforcement. In 2014, the Committee’s Working Party 3 conducted roundtables on a variety of topics including standard setting, the use of markers in leniency programs, and institutional design. 

In June 2014, Working Party 3 and the Committee approved, and in September the OECD Council formally adopted, a major revision to the OECD’s Council Recommendation Concerning International Cooperation on Competition Investigations and Proceedings. The revised Recommendation affirms the strong commitment of OECD members to antitrust enforcement cooperation, including through investigatory assistance and exchange of confidential information, subject to robust safeguards for the protection of that information.

Also related to OECD, in September 2014, the Division presented at the Committee-sponsored Latin American Competition Forum in Montevideo, Uruguay, along with antitrust enforcers from sixteen Latin American agencies. 

A founding member of the ICN, the Division serves on the Steering Group that guides the direction of the ICN’s work, co-chairs the Cartel Working Group, and next year will co-chair the Unilateral Conduct Working Group. In 2014, the ICN approved a set of Recommended Practices for Predatory Pricing Analysis Pursuant to Unilateral Conduct Laws. During the last year, Division officials participated in the ICN Cartel Workshop in Taiwan, which included meetings on topics such as maximizing deterrence and sanctioning cartel conduct. Division officials also participated in the ICN Merger Workshop in New Delhi, where international merger enforcement cooperation and challenges facing young agencies were among the topics discussed. The Division has worked closely with the ICN Merger Working Group on the development of the Guidance on International Merger Enforcement Cooperation.

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