We advise individuals suspected of involvement in criminal cartel activity, such as price-fixing, market sharing, bid rigging, or restricting output to the detriment of customers. We also regularly work alongside expert competition lawyers, providing specialist criminal advice in respect of competition and criminal cartel investigations. Our cartel team is recognised in all the directories as leaders in our field.
The UK’s civil regime for cartel enforcement applies to corporates who can be investigated and fined for anti-competitive behaviour. For individuals who are associated with cartel activity they are vulnerable to a criminal investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) or the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The offence carries a five-year custodial sentence and/or an unlimited fine
Our cartels team is extremely well placed to provide advice to individuals and companies who are caught up in cartel activity, whether through uncovering the activities internally, or as a result of an investigation by the CMA, SFO, a Regulator such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or overseas authorities such as the Department of Justice (DoJ).
We are experienced at advising on cartel-related investigations, whether representing parties involved in formal investigation by the above agencies, or assisting companies with their own internal investigations and the individuals potentially exposed.
How we can help
- We regularly work alongside competition lawyers, providing specialist criminal advice in respect of competition and criminal cartel investigations.
- We advise individuals directly caught up in investigations.
- We have experience of assisting in dawn raid situations (which are most likely to be conducted by the CMA and/or the European Commission). Employees of the target organisation may be arrested and taken to the police station for interview. The CMA may have been monitoring the activity for some time and how a person deals with the first interview at the police station is crucial.
- We advise on interviews under caution, compelled interviews, searches, internal investigations, leniency applications, immunity applications and the trial process.
- We advise directors who face disqualification for breaches of competition law (a Directors Disqualification Order).
- We provide training to companies and competition lawyers on the criminal cartel offence.
We understand what is at stake when a company is suspected of cartel activity and the implications for individuals who might stand accused of directing or implementing a cartel scheme.
There is always a judgment call to be made on the extent to which parties’ interests are aligned. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate immunity or leniency deals. In others, it may be wise for individuals to take a more robust and independent approach.
We have experience of investigations across a range of sectors, involving a variety of enforcement authorities. We are highly skilled at acting in investigations and trials, and in dealing with complex issues.
We work closely with our specialist regulatory law colleagues if directors face disqualification for breaches of competition law. We also have a dedicated reputation management team who can help to limit the reputation damage for individuals and companies who are riding the storm of an investigation.
If you are concerned about the risk of involvement in cartel behaviour, please contact one of our specialist cartel lawyers.