Legal Alert - Increased Scrutiny and Punishment for Corporate Executives for Antitrust Violations
by Jeremy J. Stewart
Snell & Wilmer Antitrust and Competition Group
On February 19, 2016, an antitrust official with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the agency’s increased emphasis on individual accountability, and a renewed commitment “to holding accountable the highest-level culpable executives at conspirator companies.” In prepared remarks published by the DOJ, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder said that the Antitrust Division is ramping up its efforts to investigate and punish corporate executives and employees for their roles in condoning, directing or participating in antitrust cartels. The DOJ has pursued individuals involved in antitrust cartels for decades, but Mr. Snyder highlighted the agency’s commitment “to do even better.” This increased commitment is based on two key beliefs espoused by the Antitrust Division: (1) that “compliance with antitrust laws must be ingrained in a corporation’s culture—one that is established from the top down;” and (2) that “prison time for individuals [i]s the single most effective deterrent to the ‘temptation to cheat the system and profit from collusion,’” even more than the billions of dollars in fines imposed by the agency on corporations.