Help, I have discovered a cartel

Help, I have discovered a cartel

Competition infringements can also come to light outside of an investigation by a competition authority, for instance, after a situation that is very similar to a cartel or other serious competition problems are uncovered. What should you do then?

It is always vitally important to take swift action. The ACM and the EC have reward systems (leniency) for companies that report malpractice, with immunity from fines granted to the first applicant. This is of particular importance in situations where cartel operations have fractured, resulting in a race for leniency. Key steps in such situations are:

  • Establishing a small, efficient, multidisciplinary project team (compliance, IT, and external counsel). That team will conduct a closer, confidential investigation into any potential competition infringements. Communication is confidential and covered by attorney-client privilege with external counsel;
  • Assessing and documenting the facts and focusing on document retention, e-discovery, and interviews;
  • Conducting a risk-assessment (what has happened, is this conduct prohibited, what are the potential fines and the chances of incurring those fines, what are likely scenarios);
  • After determining the facts and associated risks, a choice should be made on any subsequent action such as requesting leniency or corrective measures;
  • Other actions with regard to issues like communication strategy, disciplinary measures, retention policy, compliance, and possible international aspects should be considered.

If you uncover a competition infringement or are confronted with a dawn raid, we are ready to offer immediate assistance. We will make sure the process is smooth and straightforward, allowing you to make the right decisions both in the short and long term. Ruben Elkerbout, partner in Stek’s competition practice, has written an article about uncovering a possible cartel (in Dutch).