On 30 September 2015, Director of the Cartels Directorate, Eric Van Ginderachter, announced that the European Commission is considering reforms to its current whistleblower programme to fight cartels. The new programme would allow informants to disclose details of companies’ alleged anticompetitive behaviour to an independent consultancy.
Under the current programme, anonymous disclosures can be made to the European Commission in Brussels. However, the anonymity of informants prevents the Commission from seeking from the informants further information that may be required to allow the Commission to investigate any price-fixing or collusion allegations.
The reforms currently under review draw on schemes already adopted in countries such as Germany and Denmark, where independent agencies are set up to facilitate a dialogue between the informants and the Commission. A similar programme would provide the Commission with access to further information, while preserving the informant’s anonymity.
This shows the Commission's continued determination to root out cartels and the importance of whistleblowers in doing so. The programme is intended to work alongside the Commission's corporate leniency regime, but if it is a success, could result in fewer corporates receiving complete immunity. However, sacked employees – potentially the most useful whistleblower for the Commission – will need to think carefully about potential consequences in jurisdictions like the UK where the CMA is vigorously pursuing criminal cartel prosecutions.