Antitrust leniency and settlement policies in the EU and the UK

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Leniency and settlement polices reward defendants' cooperation in antitrust proceedings, notably by granting them fine reductions and, in the case of leniency, even immunity from fines. These collaborative procedures have become major enforcement tools, particularly in the fight against cartels, the most egregious violations of competition law. Specifically, leniency policy seeks to facilitate the uncovering of unlawful conduct and agencies’ investigations by encouraging the provision of evidence of an infringement of antitrust law. Indeed, leniency arose as a tool aimed at increasing the detection rate of cartels, whose secret nature renders antitrust enforcement more challenging. Settlement policy, in turn, is a resolution tool, aimed at attaining more efficient, streamlined versions of potentially lengthy proceedings, in the search for a paradigm shift toward a less litigation-oriented antitrust regime. Leniency and settlement policies are, however, complementary in nature and ultimately pursue the same objectives, i.e., to increase detection and deterrence, and thus this dissertation proposes a juxtaposition of both enforcement tools.

This dissertation is concerned with leniency and settlement policies and their contribution towards effective antitrust enforcement, both at the EU level and in the UK. In particular, it assesses how the fundamental principles and objectives of the antitrust system have been carried through in the design and administration of leniency and settlement policies, with a view to outlining policy and normative implications.

Focused on the decisional practice of the European Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, this thesis analyses the empirical evolution of leniency and settlement policies at the EU level and in the UK. To that end, it puts forward a novel effectiveness-testing benchmark and it argues that an inward-looking approach to the objectives, design, administration and assessment of leniency and settlement policies disregards wider aspects of the enforcement system, to the detriment of effectiveness. This dissertation therefore advances the literature by carrying out a structured assessment of the design and implementation of both enforcement tools. In addition, it offers guidance and principles for the reform of leniency and settlement policies at the EU level and in the UK. The proposals made may also help to guide the improvement of leniency and settlement regimes in other jurisdictions, especially at the national level in the EU.
Date of Award1 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAlison Jones (Supervisor) & William E. Kovacic (Supervisor)

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