The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ("ACCC") has signed a new memorandum of cooperation ("MOC") with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"). The interagency agreement was signed in Washington D.C. this week, following a recent visit to FBI Headquarters by ACCC Chair Rod Sims and Executive General Manager Marcus Bezzi in March 2019.
The MOC strengthens the agencies' joint efforts in combating cartels and other anticompetitive practices. In particular, the MOC provides for the exchange of expertise and staff between the ACCC and the FBI to enhance the detection, investigation, and prosecution of criminal competition offences. Although the agreement applies to all areas of competition enforcement, representatives from the ACCC and the FBI plan to target criminal cartel conduct and antitrust conspiracies.
The MOC adds to the growing number of intergovernmental agreements between Australia and the United States. It also affirms the growing relationship between the ACCC and the FBI, which has included visits by FBI representatives to Australia to discuss investigative techniques and information exchange.
As a result of the increasing information and resource sharing capabilities between the ACCC and the FBI, Australian companies operating in the United States are likely to face increased scrutiny from competition authorities. Companies also should expect increased enforcement from the ACCC as it learns or adopts investigative strategies from the FBI in cartel and other competition law investigations. As a result of the MOC, we expect more cooperative competition law enforcement between authorities in both Australia and the United States. Companies operating in the United States and Australia need to be more certain than ever that their practices do not fall foul of antitrust laws in either jurisdiction.