CMA Cartels and Price Fixing
Cartels are formed when multiple businesses agree together to act in way that restricts competition. They may agree not to compete with each other, or they may, between themselves, fix the price of products or services, rig bids, or agree to divide and share the market between themselves.
These types of cartel agreements are unlawful and can sometimes be criminal. If you think you may have become involved with a cartel it’s important to seek legal help immediately. We can provide you with advice and help to improve your situation.
This area is regulated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who may also prosecute. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) can also bring criminal prosecutions for cartels, so it is integral that you are on the right side of the law.
Understanding cartels and price fixing
It’s vital to understand that the company itself cannot be prosecuted for involvement in a cartel. It is the individuals allegedly involved – the directors, the senior officers and employees – that are liable to an investigation and prosecution.
The target is those that have allegedly agreed to operate a cartel. Whilst companies are not prosecuted, they can be made subject to civil enforcement action. If you or your company find yourself facing investigation for allegedly running a cartel, seeking appropriate, skilled legal advice is very important.
"WHILST BEING PROFESSIONAL, AT THE SAME I FELT THE SERVICE CARING AND DOWN TO EARTH."
Why do you need an experienced business crime & regulatory team?
It will be hugely concerning for you if you are being investigated or, even worse, prosecuted for involvement with cartel activity. We will need to assess your options swiftly so that we can offer the best possible advice and help you to take the right next steps.
Experts suited to your needs
Depending on your circumstances, you have a number of potential options available to you and it is vital that you have a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer to walk you through the different possibilities. If you are facing a potential or an actual investigation by the CMA, then again, you will need urgent assistance. Our financial crime experts are able to provide immediate support and assistance.
Lawyers who care
You may need representation at the police station or in court, our team offer that support every day. We draw on our long-standing financial crime and fraud expertise to provide very effective and successful representation with a CMA investigation or prosecution. We can also represent you at the police station or in court. In the first instance all you will need to do is share a few details with us and we will advise.
R v Stringer
Our Joint Head of the Financial Crime and Regulatory Team – Kiran Mehta – acted for this defendant in the first ever prosecution by the CMA for cartel activity. He acted throughout the investigation stage, all the way through to trial, securing an acquittal for the defendant. The case received heavy publicity, becoming a very public failure for the CMA.
"I WAS SO PLEASED WITH THEM AIDING MY FIRST CASE, THAT I RETURNED TO THEIR FIRM WHEN I NEEDED REPRESENTATION A SECOND TIME."
What is the CMA Leniency Regime?
The CMA Leniency Regime allows for lenient treatment in return for proper disclosure of cartel activity. If you are concerned that you have been involved in cartel activity or are worried you may be investigated, we can move to take your account of events and analyse relevant material you hold to establish your situation. If appropriate, we can advise you on the CMA leniency regime and whether it is in your best interests to make a disclosure to the CMA in order to instigate this procedure. Whether such disclosure should be made to the CMA, the nature of the disclosure and its timing are complex questions that require careful analysis. These require careful consideration and advice from an experienced CMA lawyer.
Depending on the circumstances, it is possible that you may have a number of leniency options available to you. This can include a full immunity from prosecution for an individual and substantial discounts for any fines payable for a company. When deciding whether to avail yourself of the leniency options it is vital that you have an experienced lawyer to carefully consider your circumstances to decide whether a leniency option is best for you, or – in the event of a criminal investigation or prosecution – what your prospects of success are. This requires careful analysis of the circumstances including any evidence that the CMA have or are likely to have.
Is it possible to secure immunity from prosecution?
A particular concern for clients will be trying to ensure immunity from a criminal prosecution. A cartel involves the complicity of more than individual. If you are one of those individuals and make the first disclosure before anyone else and before the CMA have commenced an investigation, then the CMA can grant full criminal immunity automatically.
It is, however, based on observation and compliance with numerous requirements. It is, therefore, vital to have legal advice for this. Similarly, where the aforementioned does not apply, it is still possible to secure an immunity from prosecution. The CMA has a discretion in certain circumstances. Legal advice from an experienced CMA lawyer is, therefore, imperative.
My regulator is also involved – can you help?
Depending on the industry or sector in which the concern about anti-competitive behaviour arises, your regulator may also become involved. At HJA, we have a combined financial crime and regulatory lawyer team. The frequency of occurrence of parallel criminal and regulatory action means it makes sense to offer a lawyer who can provide parallel advice and representation. Hodge, Jones & Allen Solicitors can provide this unique service. There are also cost benefits for you in having the same lawyer handle all aspects of any parallel criminal and regulatory matter.