On 24 June 2015, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) was defeated in its first attempt at convincing a jury to convict individuals for the UK criminal “cartel offence”. The jury was not persuaded that the two defendants (Clive Dean and Nicholas Stringer) acted “dishonestly” and therefore returned a unanimous not guilty verdict after only around 2.5 hours of deliberation.
This is a bad loss for the CMA but it is putting a brave face on it, pointing out that the case was brought under the law as it applied to conduct before April 2014. Under that law the cartel offence was only committed where the individuals concerned were dishonest. Following a change in the law, for conduct after 1 April 2014, it is no longer necessary for the CMA to prove individuals acted dishonestly to commit the cartel offence and therefore potentially face a fine and/or jail time.
The CMA was also careful to state that “we remain committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who take part in cartels”. It wants to prosecute and is always on the lookout for a good case. Competition compliance efforts in the UK remain essential for all businesses, whether large or small and whatever the size of the market.