Antitrust laws – which are designed to control anti-competitive practices such as price-fixing and dividing markets – have proliferated rapidly around the world in recent years, reflecting society’s increasing ethical expectations about the governance of business conduct. Managing the growth of these legal compliance requirements is challenging for all businesses without the right tools to foster a compliance culture.
Designed by business for business, the ICC Antitrust Compliance Toolkit provides valuable guidelines for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger companies wishing to build or reinforce a robust compliance program.
On September 9, USCIB and the International Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored a program for the official rollout of ICC’s Antitrust Compliance Toolkit. The Compliance Toolkit received acclaim in many jurisdictions and has been unveiled in 8 other countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Malaysia, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Hosted by Kaye Scholer in New York City, the U.S. event featured keynote speaker Brent C. Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general for criminal enforcement at the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The following antitrust experts also served as panelists during the event: John M. Taladay, partner at Baker Botts and chair of the USCIB Competition Committee, Anne Riley, group antitrust council at Shell International, Charles Webb, senior director of international antitrust compliance at Wal-Mart, Aimee Immundo, senior counsel of competition law and compliance at General Electric, Scott Hemphill, law professor at Columbia Law School, and Jennifer Patterson, partner at Kaye Scholer LLP and vice chair of the USCIB Competition Committee.
Participants discussed the importance of business executives committing to a solid and credible antitrust compliance program, regardless of the company’s size. Following Snyder’s keynote address, Riley presented the ICC Antitrust Compliance Toolkit. Attendees then participated in a case study exercise designed to assess the anticompetitive risks of a hypothetical company in three different jurisdictions. The event concluded with a panel discussion on corporate compliance programs, with input from USCIB members.
“Effective Compliance Programs Prevent Antitrust Violations”
As the Department of Justice’s top authority responsible for antitrust laws against cartels, Brent Snyder gave keynote remarks about the importance of crafting an effective antitrust compliance program that prevents violations from happening in the first place. He stressed that a business’s senior management must be committed to antitrust by cultivating a culture of compliance within the organization. CEOs must lay the foundation for a corporate culture of compliance in order for such a program to work.
“The best way to stop a crime is to stop it before it happens,” said Snyder. “Effective compliance programs prevent antitrust violations.”
Snyder noted that the consequences for violating antitrust laws are severe, and that businesses should be aware of the liabilities at stake if an employee breaks antitrust laws. He said that businesses need to be proactive about their compliance programs and that they should pay special consideration to how they approach violators.
He concluded by urging businesses not to think about compliance programs as a “stick” or as a punishment. Rather, “the purpose of having an effective compliance program is to be a good and responsible corporate citizen.”
Snyder explained that the consequences of ineffective antitrust compliance are within the company’s power to control. To that end, the ICC Toolkit is a valuable resource.
“They’re very good tools,” Snyder said about the toolkit. “They’re excellent.”
The ICC Toolkit, presented at the event by Riley, offers useful guidelines for businesses big and small on how to create an antitrust compliance program and how to strengthen an existing program.
“What this is about is behaving ethically and doing business ethically,” she explained.
The toolkit also covers the importance of getting senior management to support the compliance program, and suggests that a company’s antitrust officers consult with finance departments to help identify areas where there is legal risk of antitrust violations.
Riley noted that “compliance know-how” is a must for business executives, and that companies should make clear why it is in their interest to champion and comply with antitrust rules. All businesses need a consistent, ongoing commitment to compliance from both management and employees, she concluded.
The ICC Toolkit is available for download in English and French at the ICC website. It will soon be translated into several other languages as well.
Corporate Compliance Programs
Following a case study exercise that asked participants to assess a hypothetical company’s anticompetitive legal risks, the event concluded with a panel discussion about corporate compliance programs. Panelists included Charles Webb, senior director of international antitrust compliance at Wal-Mart, Aimee Immundo, senior counsel of competition law and compliance at General Electric and Scott Hemphill, law professor at Columbia Law School.
Webb explained that large corporations like Wal-Mart are interested in knowing how to implement “a world class antitrust program,” and he used the ICC Toolkit to that end.
Immundo stressed that the human aspect of compliance is hugely important but difficult to quantify. She warned that people have gone to jail for antitrust violations and that it is crucial for businesses to carefully monitor their horizontal relationships so that executives don’t wander into potentially dangerous anticompetitive territory with their peers.
A recurring theme throughout the event was that it is challenging to get business people interested and fired up about antitrust compliance. Hemphill suggested that companies provide vivid examples to employees about the personal risks and consequences of violating antitrust rules. He lauded the ICC Antitrust Toolkit for helping to generate interest in compliance.
Staff contact: Justine Badimon