Planes, Trains and Ships: Criminal Antitrust Enforcement Speeding Up for Transportation Sector
The Biden administration recently issued a sweeping Executive Order aimed at protecting and enhancing competition, and the transportation sector—including air, ocean, and rail—is among the industries specifically identified and likely to see heightened antitrust scrutiny under the new directives. This executive action was soon followed by the long-awaited announcement of Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (Division), Jonathan Kanter, who, assuming he is confirmed, is widely anticipated to oversee an era of vigorous antitrust enforcement under a Democratic administration and Congress.
That goal was clear in recent remarks by current Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers. In discussing the Division’s criminal enforcement trends, Powers noted that last fiscal year saw the most corporate fines and penalties of the past five years and the most open grand jury investigations in the last decade, and that the Division’s current number of indicted cases (17) across 14 different investigations is the most in modern history, and reaffirmed the Division’s ongoing objective to hold individual executives accountable for antitrust crimes.
Now more than ever, companies must be vigilant in ensuring compliance with competition laws. While the new executive order focuses on industry consolidation amongst the largest carriers and alliances that may hinder competition and increase prices, historically, the Division has repeatedly pursued conduct cases against firms suspected of cartel activity such as price fixing, market allocation, and bid rigging conspiracies, and clients should expect that enforcement focus to continue.
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"Planes, Trains and Ships: Criminal Antitrust Enforcement Speeding Up for Transportation Sector," by William E. Lawler III and Kierstan L. Carlson was published in Marine Link and Maritime Logistics Professional on January 24, 2022.