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07 Jan 2010

The Modernisation of EU Anti-Cartel Enforcement

Will the Commission Grasp the Opportunity?

Alan Riley

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This paper argues that the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition, under its new Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, is now facing acute problems in its investigation and prosecution of cartels, which stem from the successful cartel busting era of Commissioner Kroes. The core argument is that the Commission’s procedures emerged at a time when the aim was to consult extensively on the development of competition law, and not to prosecute and fine delinquent business entities. These antiquated procedures, which have not been substantially reformed since they came into force in March 1963, involve extensive documentary responses in which the Commission acts as investigator, prosecutor and judge and only allow the Commission to hand down half a dozen decisions condemning cartels per year.

London City University Professor Alan Riley argues for a comprehensive modernisation of the Commission’s anti-cartel regime, stripping away the limitations on the application of the leniency programme; streamlining the contentious procedure to encourage a greater throughput of cases and reforming the sanctions regime to allow individual sanctions to ensure personal accountability for price-fixing by corporate executives.

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