Antitrust Crack Down On CartelsContact: Finnegan, Lisa
NEW YORK — Lawyers from around the world came to Fordham Law School to learn about the United State’s government’s crack down on international trade cartels, which have flourished in the rapidly changing world economic system.
"These cartels are the equivalent of theft by well-dressed thieves, and they deserve unequivocal condemnation,’’ said Joel I. Klein, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, who addressed the 26th annual Conference on International Antitrust Law & Policy, sponsored by the Fordham Corporate Law Institute. About 300 attorneys from around the world attended the event.
International trade cartels increasingly have made headlines as U.S. officials have lifted national trade barriers. This year alone, the U.S. Justice Department fined corporations more than $1.1 billion and sent several executives, including some from other countries, to prison for fixing prices around the world. Earlier this year, the department levied the largest antitrust fine ever — $500 million — against Hoffman-LaRoche for allegedly fixing prices on vitamins around the world.
The Fordham conference also focused on antitrust issues that have arisen in the European Community, as European nations strive to build a common economic system. One seminar examined the competitive marketplace for professional sports in Europe and the United States, while another dealt with regulatory issues surrounding mergers between companies from different countries.
In addition to Klein, speakers at the conference included Karel van Miert, commissioner of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, and Robert Pitofsky, chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Klein said federal investigators have found widespread price-fixing around the globe, with American firms typically consorting with three or four competitors that are market leaders in Europe, Asia and throughout the world. They agree on dividing up a territory to reduce competition, then allegedly raise prices there to boost profits.
Such corporate actions require an international response by antitrust prosecutors, many conference participants said.
"This is a situation where we’re all getting hurt, so we must work together,’’ Klein told the attorneys. "In other words, the conspirators are working globally, so antitrust enforcers must do so as well."