Monday, March 10, 2008

U.K. Offers Cash Rewards for Antitrust Informants

The U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") on February 29 began offering rewards of up to 100,000 pounds (almost $200,000) to informants who provide information about price fixing and illegal cartels, according to media reports and the OFT's press release. The rewards are being offered as part of an 18-month pilot program, which, if successful, may be made permanent. The OFT has become the second regulator to implement such a reward program, with South Korea's Fair Trade Commission being the first.

Potential Affects on U.S. Antitrust Enforcement -

The OFT's program may affect antitrust enforcement in the United States in at least two ways.

First, in an age of global commerce and competition, antitrust violations that are first unearthed in the U.K. may lead to the discovery of similar violations in the United States.

Second, if the program is successful, it could lead to the adoption of a similar program here. The U.S. already rewards informants under the false claims act for reporting fraud against the government. Similarly, the U.S. DOJ already offers a successful leniency program for companies that cooperate with authorities by providing information about illegal antitrust activity, as I noted in an earlier post. In a February 29 speech, for example, Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett described the leniency program as "an extraordinarily effective tool in detecting and prosecuting cartels."

If Congress wanted to become more aggressive in enforcing the antitrust laws, then the enactment of a reward program similar to the U.K.'s may be a logical and effective step, especially if the U.K.'s program proves successful.

Related Post: Chocolate-Makers Allegedly Fixed Prices


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