Partner in (fighting) crime: ACCC welcomes new alliance with FBI

The ACCC has welcomed a new alliance with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as of April 2019. The ACCC announced on 15 April 2019 that the ACCC and FBI have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (the Memorandum) to facilitate increased information and resource sharing between agencies.

 

The Memorandum will sit alongside existing arrangements already in place between Australia and the US that provide for transnational cooperation between the ACCC and American competition law enforcement agencies.

The Memorandum endeavours to enhance each entity’s detection, investigation and prosecution of competition offences. In particular, the ACCC has announced its intention to utilise this partnership to combat cartel conduct (which is prohibited by Part IV, Division 1 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)). This will assist the ACCC in achieving its aim to increase the number of cartel investigations that reach a conclusion and prosecution to three (3) per year, as published in the ACCC’s 2019 Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

Broadly speaking, cartel conduct involves a contract, arrangement or understanding between two or more parties that are, or would otherwise be, in competition, and which relates to:

  1. price-fixing;
  2. restricting outputs in the production and supply chain;
  3. allocating customers, suppliers or territories; or
  4. bid-rigging.
The alliance is also anticipated to assist the US in investigating and prosecuting antitrust conspiracies that span across national borders by facilitating intelligence sharing and cooperative investigations.

What does this mean for you?

While the terms have not yet been published, it is understood that the Memorandum will provide the ACCC with greater resources and training to investigate and enforce competition and consumer law in Australia, including but not limited to alleged cartel conduct. If utilised properly, it can be expected that the training and skills acquired through the alliance may result in an increase in the number of investigations that lead to action being taken by the ACCC, ensuring accountability in the market.

In a time where government regulators have been heavily questioned and scrutinised in the public eye, the Memorandum demonstrates the ACCC’s ongoing dedication to properly regulating and enforcing the laws it governs.

All businesses ought to have an understanding of the cartel conduct provisions, particularly given the ACCC’s intention to focus on combating such conduct utilising this new alliance with the US.

McCabe Curwood has experience in advising its clients on the operation of the Competition and Consumer Act and the Australian Consumer Law, and in resolving commercial disputes involving allegations of misleading or deceptive conduct.

Contributors

Nathan Jones Senior Associate
Stephanie Andrews Lawyer