Tuesday, 8 September 2020

An excellent resource

Interested in staying up with Australia's criminalisation of cartels, and New Zealand's impending move to do the same? Then head over to the MLex site and download your free copy of  'Collusion Damage: Australia’s struggle to secure its first criminal cartel convictions — and make jail time a deterrent at last '.

It's an excellent resource. As the report says, "Since the first individual criminal cartel charges were laid early in 2018, MLex has been present at every material court hearing in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney", and the expertise shows. The report is on top of all the cases currently live. My take, not theirs, but after reading this report, and also going by the coverage of the case in the Australian Financial Review, I do wonder from a variety of perspectives if the ACCC is going to succeed with its alleged cartel case against the underwriter banks left with unsold ANZ Bank shares. 

There's a chapter in the report about New Zealand's impending regime, where I agree with MLex that "It’s true that the Commerce Commission will still have the full suite of civil offenses at its disposal and will be under no obligation to unleash a criminal prosecution for trivial matters. Yet ensuring that well-meaning, small businesses -  those that aren’t large enough to have in-house counsel or even to employ a law firm to review their decisions - don’t get caught up with criminal offenses designed to ensnare larger, possibly global players, will remain a challenge for the agency".

In writing up the CLPINZ session on cartel criminalisation I'd also wondered about potential overkill, and had assumed we in New Zealand would end up with some arrangement similar to that between the ACCC and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which hopefully would set some seriousness threshold before unleashing the criminal process. But I learn from the MLex report that "Unlike the ACCC, the Commerce Commission will be able to take its investigations to court directly, without handing the file over to public prosecutors; however, it will be required to ascertain how its planned prosecution measures up with the Solicitor General’s Prosecution Guidelines, which demand “evidential sufficiency” and proof that the prosecution is in the public interest". As the Guidelines say, "The predominant consideration is the seriousness of the offence", and hopefully a conservative approach will be the way to go, rather than feeling the collar of commercial naïfs.

Speaking of resources, I came across the MLex report on its useful Twitter feed. If you're interested in competition tweets, head over to my own Twitter posts and help yourself to my Twitter 'Competition' list (currently 73 members). And if New Zealand economics is your thing, then the 'NZ economics' list (52 members) should be of interest. If there are local competition or economics folks I've missed, let me know and I'll add them.

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