DOJ collects more than $1 billion in antitrust fines

Michael P. Tremoglie Jan. 18, 2012, 10:43am

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The Department of Justice collected more than $1 billion in fines, penalties, restitution and other fees during Fiscal Year 2011 from criminal antitrust violators, according to a recent report.

The report, published Jan. 9 by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, based in New York City -- said the amount is the second-highest collected in DOJ history. The total payments consist of an estimated $523 million in criminal fines and more than $500 million in restitution, penalties, and disgorgement paid to state and federal agencies.

It represents an increase of more than 78 percent from FY 2010. The report opines that the Antitrust Division is sending "a clear to the corporate world that DOJ's zealous pursuit of large fines for collusive conduct continues unabated."

The report notes that although the Antitrust Division has yet to publish their year end statistics, GDC's "estimate is supported by Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis Pozen's testimony before Congress in December 2011."

The Antitrust Division published a report Dec. 20 listing Sherman Act violations yielding corporate fines of $10 million or more. Among the cases included were a $32 million fine against Samsung of Korea in 2011 for their role in price fixing in the cathode ray tube market; a $38 million fine of Northwest Airlines, U.S.A. in 2010 and $49.1 million against Panasonic in 2011.

The Division also noted that its "international program" made great strides. It cited the case of the Division's continuing investigation of price-fixing in the air transportation industry. It noted that they have cooperated with enforcement agencies on five continents. It also mentioned that they have conducted merger reviews - often pursuant to waivers from the parties - with competition agencies in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and other nations.

Another example of international cooperation was the Antitrust Division's close cooperation "with the German Federal Cartel Office on the acquisition of certain patents and patent applications from Novell Inc. by CPTN Holdings (a holding company owned by Microsoft Inc., Oracle Corp., Apple Inc. and EMC Corp.). This was the first merger enforcement cooperation the Division had had with Germany in 20 years."

Then there was the complaint and consent decree involving Unilever and Alberto-Culver Co. The Antitrust Division worked its counterparts in Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Ultimately the two firms were required to divest two hair care brands in order to proceed with Unilever's acquisition of Alberto-Culver. The different jurisdictions affected by the merger resulted involved various product markets and competitive issues.

The Antitrust Division is forecasting an even stronger relationship with anticompetitive enforcement government entities in China. According to Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney, "Our cooperative relationship with the [Chinese antimonopoly agencies] has steadily strengthened."

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