For the second straight year, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) collected more than $1 billion in antitrust fines. This year’s $1.02 billion in fines for fiscal year 2013 confirms the DOJ’s resolve to attack price fixing violations as highlighted by massive price-fixing fines against auto parts manufacturers. This year’s hefty total is only slightly below the 2012 record of $1.14 billion, which included a price fixing fine leveled against an LCD display manufacturer that tied the highest price fixing fine ever imposed on a single company.
Last month, the DOJ announced an agreement with nine Japan-based auto parts manufacturers to pay $740 million in criminal fines for their roles in fixing the prices of more than 30 different auto products. Combined with penalties previously obtained against 11 other auto parts manufacturers, the DOJ now has obtained more than $1.6 billion in total criminal antitrust fines related to auto parts price fixing. In conjunction with the fines, the DOJ charged 21 auto parts company executives individually with criminal antitrust violations. Seventeen of the executives already have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons or have entered into plea agreements calling for significant prison sentences.
In addition to the criminal fines for automotive parts price fixing, in 2013 the DOJ obtained significant criminal fines against numerous banks for their alleged manipulation of LIBOR benchmark interest rates.
The Bottom Line
In the last five years, criminal fines for antitrust violations in the U.S. are more than $4 billion which exceeds total criminal fines levied in the eight years of the Bush administration by more than $1 billion. This is further evidence that the promise of heightened enforcement of the antitrust laws by the Obama administration has become a reality and there is every reason to expect that 2014 likely will bring additional major antitrust investigations and penalties to companies in industries that may not yet expect them.