Can the OFT Succeed in its Latest Attempt at Bringing Criminal Charges Against an Individual for Cartel Conduct?

February 18, 2014

(by Scott Summers) The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has charged Peter Nigel Snee under section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002. It is alleged that he ‘dishonestly agreed with others’ to fix prices, allocate markets and rig bids in the market for galvanised steel tanks for water storage, between 2004 and 2012. This is the UK’s first criminal cartel prosecution since the collapse of the British Airways trial back in 2010,[1] which left a number of unanswered questions about the ‘dishonesty’ element and the UK cartel offence in general. The Snee case will fall under the existing cartel offence. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will, from 1 April 2014, strip the ‘dishonesty’ element and introduce new carve-outs and defences to the offence. Read the rest of this entry »


Is the New EU Private Enforcement Draft Directive Too Little Too Late?

June 15, 2013

(by Sebastian Peyer) After a decade of debate, consultation and guidance papers, DG Competition has finally released its draft Directive on actions for damages. It has been driven by the Commission’s desire to encourage private antitrust enforcement, currently deemed too low and mainly restricted to a small number of Member States, and the need to ‘optimise the interaction between public and private enforcement’. This second objective seeks to maintain the incentives for private firms to reveal cartels in return for leniency and engage in settlement procedures. A particular threat is posed by disclosure of leniency documents to third parties (e.g. Pfleiderer and National Grid). However, with rapidly developing litigation on the national level, there is a danger that aspects of the draft Directive are already behind the times. Read the rest of this entry »


Has the UK opened the floodgates to private enforcement of competition law?

January 30, 2013

(by Sebastian Peyer) Private antitrust enforcement is the least effective part of competition law in the UK. Yesterday, the government said what it intended to do about it. Its outline for a new regime of private actions in competition law followed a consultation on options for reform in 2012. It proposes fixes for a number of well-known litigation problems such as the limited jurisdiction of the specialist Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). However, of potentially greater interest to consumers and businesses will be the introduction of opt-out class actions. The debate about opt-out class actions has been fierce on national and EU levels but this is still a surprising move – will it work? Read the rest of this entry »


Beware of Siren Advice for Political Control of Foreign Mergers

November 2, 2012

(by Bruce Lyons) Lord Heseltine, a former UK trade minister, has just published a review, invited by the Prime Minister, titled ‘No stone unturned in pursuit of growth’.  One of the stones he proposes to turn is to empower government ministers to intervene in foreign acquisitions of British companies “to ensure our long term industrial capabilities are given proper consideration”.  The objective would be to negotiate commitments to build R&D capacity in the UK, develop domestic supply chains and develop the skills base against a threat to prohibit the merger.  This siren call might sound enticing, but it would not be wise to listen. Read the rest of this entry »


OFT’s Proposed Reforms Fall Short of Ensuring Independence in Antitrust Decision Making

June 8, 2012

(by Bruce Lyons)  The OFT is currently consulting on its proposed new investigation procedures in competition cases.  Much of what is proposed is very good – but the reforms do not ensure independent decision making and compromise the potential role for independent experts of the kind successfully used in Phase II merger cases. Read the rest of this entry »


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