On September 2, 2020, the Canadian Competition Bureau (Bureau) signed onto a competition law enforcement framework, the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC) with competition authorities in the U.S. (the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission), the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
The MMAC is intended to reinforce existing relationships among the five competition authorities, with a view to improving cooperation, including with respect to:
- Investigations involving alleged anti-competitive conduct
- Development of competition policy
- Competition advocacy and outreach
- Sharing best practices
- Collaborating on special projects of mutual interest
A model agreement included with the MMAC is expected to serve as a template for future agreements between signatories and sets out protocols for, amongst other matters, exchanging confidential information and cross-border evidence gathering (including through search and seizures, locating individuals, obtaining documents or taking witness statements at another authority’s request). In Canada, such agreements will have to take the form of mutual legal assistance treaties, negotiated and sanctioned by Global Affairs Canada.
IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS
The MMAC further evidences the Bureau’s focus on investigatory cooperation and coordination among competition authorities globally; for more information, see our July 2020 Blakes Bulletin: Guidelines on Enhancing Cross-Border Leniency Cooperation. Businesses should be mindful that information provided to the Bureau during a merger review or other investigation may be shared with other agencies conducting an ongoing parallel investigation where the Bureau determines it necessary for purposes of its administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, though legal rights and privileges relating to any such information that exist in Canada, including protection from self-incrimination, will continue to apply.