DOJ and FBI Provide Congressional Testimony Regarding Efforts to Uncover Cartels and Punish Cartel Participants

On Nov. 14, 2013, the Department of Justice, together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, provided testimony to Congress regarding “Cartel Prosecution: Stopping Price-Fixers and Protecting Consumers.” The testimony provides a useful summary of the agencies’ recent investigations into price-fixing cases.

The testimony explains that the DOJ applies resources and expertise from its Fraud Section, Antitrust Division, Civil Division, Public Integrity Section, Office of International Affairs, and the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, as well as U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country to support prosecutions relating to criminal price-fixing cases. The FBI assists the Antitrust Division through its International Corruption Unit, which, in addition to antitrust offenses, investigates allegations of corruption of U.S. public officials and fraud against the U.S. government (among others).

Although much credit for uncovering cartels is attributed to DOJ’s leniency program for detecting large-scale international price-fixing cartels, the leniency program is not the only tool. The DOJ and FBI uncover cartel behavior using other tools, including internal investigative efforts, customer complaints and submissions to the Citizen Complaint Center, outreach efforts with law enforcement agents, information from auditors, trade groups, business and law students, suspicious documents uncovered in civil investigations, collaboration with federal and state agencies and everyday news stories.

In FY2013, the DOJ filed criminal cases against 21 corporations and 34 individuals, and courts imposed 28 prison terms with an average sentence of just over two years per defendant. Prison sentences have been increasing in both number and duration. In the 1990s, sentences for defendants averaged eight months. Today the average prison sentence for defendants is 25 months. Also, in the last four years, courts have sentenced an average of 11 foreign nationals to jail per year. That compares with a total of three foreign nationals sentenced in the 10 years from 1990 through 1999.

In FY2013, the DOJ obtained $1.02 billion in criminal fines. In the past several years, the DOJ has obtained $1.8 billion from its air transportation investigation, $1.39 billion from its liquid crystal display investigation, and $1.6 billion from its auto parts investigation. In addition, as a result of its investigation into bid-rigging in municipal bond markets, nearly $745 million has been paid in restitution, penalties and disgorgement to federal and state agencies.

A copy of the testimony is available here.