On January 22, the DOJ Antitrust Division issued a press release detailing the results of its criminal antitrust enforcement program for fiscal year 2014 (which ended September 30, 2014). The Antitrust Division announced that during that period it collected a total of $1.861 billion in criminal fines and penalties arising from antitrust violations. This total, one of the highest ever for the Antitrust Division, included five fines of over $100 million, and a $425 million fine that constitutes the fourth largest fine ever collected by the Division. (The largest fines ever imposed were $500 million, on Hoffman LaRoche in 1999 and AU Optronics in 2012.) In the same press release, the Antitrust Division also announced that during the past year it obtained jail terms for antitrust violations from 21 individual defendants, with an average sentence of 26 months. This was the third highest average ever under this statistic. 

In announcing these figures, Assistant Attorney General William Baer, who leads the DOJ Antitrust Division, stated that “the size of these penalties is an unfortunate reminder of the powerful temptation to cheat the American consumer and profit from collusion,” and that the Antitrust Division “remains committed to ensuring that corporations and individuals who collude face serious consequences for their crimes.” 

The uptick in criminal antitrust enforcement is only one component of an overall increase in antitrust enforcement over the last several years, at both the federal and state levels. Accordingly, it has never been more important for every entity in the insurance industry to revisit its antitrust compliance protocols, and to refresh and reinvigorate their training programs and audits.