The UK antitrust authority launches a new campaign to encourage whistle-blowing and increase its cartel enforcement activity

What happened?

On 19 February 2018, the UK antitrust authority, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), launched a new advertising campaign to encourage more individuals to come forward with information that will help it uncover secret cartels. 

The campaign reminds individuals that if they have witnessed cartel conduct and report it to the CMA, they are eligible for a reward of up to £100,000. It also reminds individuals that if they have been involved in cartel conduct, they should report their involvement to the CMA without delay to avoid criminal prosecution and director disqualification proceedings (click here for the CMA’s press release).

Why does this matter?

This campaign is part of a series of efforts by the CMA to encourage whistle-blowers. A similar campaign in March 2017 saw a 30% increase in tip-offs in the course of that year. As such, the CMA sees whistle-blowers as an important tool in its efforts to uncover and combat cartels.  

From a company’s perspective, campaigns such as this increase the instability of a cartel and therefore the risk of its exposure to antitrust authorities and fines. Due to an increase in private antitrust litigation in Europe, some companies have started to question whether the benefits of applying for leniency outweigh the costs of liability in follow-on litigation. However, the rise of individual whistle-blower programmes – including at an EU level and in Germany amongst others – shifts the balance back towards early admission of liability.

What happens next? 

The CMA’s encouragement of individual whistle-blowers should cause corporates to keep compliance at the top of their agendas, given the increased risk of detection and penalty. 

How can Cadwalader help? 

Cadwalader’s antitrust team is one of only a few to focus on the financial services sector. We regularly represent companies before the EU and US antitrust authorities, including the CMA, and are specialists in offering ‘end-to-end’ advice on investigations and related litigation in this sector. 

If you would like to discuss the issues arising in this alert, or how we can help you more generally, please contact Vincent Brophy or Tom Bainbridge.


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