Government Criminal Enforcement

Competition authorities across the globe have increased enforcement against criminal antitrust violations in recent years. The United States Department of Justice, in particular, has recently imposed substantial fines and prison sentences against alleged conspirators, including those located abroad. In the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2015, the DOJ received more than $3.6 billion in criminal fines and charged over 60 individuals, including many foreign nationals. The DOJ's enforcement efforts are often coordinated with other competition authorities, as many investigations are global in scope.

With these increased enforcement efforts, companies and their employees need experienced, motivated, and pragmatic criminal antitrust counsel—counsel who can steer them clear of potential criminal sanctions and, just as importantly, help them avoid the burdens and potential consequences of a criminal antitrust investigation.

Our antitrust team has successfully counseled clients on criminal antitrust issues and represented numerous companies and individuals in investigations and grand jury proceedings across a range of industries. In particular, our team has extensive experience dealing with international investigations and has routinely represented foreign companies and executives before the DOJ as well as other competition bodies. Our team members have served as U.S. Attorneys and Department of Justice Antitrust Division prosecutors and senior managers, and have participated on the Antitrust Modernization Commission, which was responsible for overseeing and recommending changes to the criminal antitrust laws and procedures.

Notably, our attorneys have played key roles in some of the most prominent criminal antitrust investigations in recent years, namely the multi-jurisdictional investigations in the financial services, ocean and air transportation, auto parts, and electronics (e.g., DRAM and capacitors) industries. In total, WSGR has served as lead counsel in 30 different matters over the last five years. Perhaps most notable is that during this period, no WSGR client has been charged criminally for a cartel violation when WSGR was lead counsel. Currently, we are representing a number of companies and individuals in connection with several different ongoing DOJ criminal investigations and counseling clients so that they may avoid potential criminal exposure.

Examples of our representations include the following:

  • Represent a leading pharmaceutical company in an industry-wide federal grand jury investigation, as well as state investigation
  • Represent an international supplier of electrical components in a multi-jurisdictional cartel investigation involving price-fixing and market allocation allegations
  • Represent a financial services company before the DOJ in a cartel (bid-rigging) investigation
  • Represent several companies and individuals in the auto parts investigation currently being conducted by multiple antitrust bodies, including the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, European Commission, and Japan Fair Trade Commission, among others
  • Represent a company in a multi-jurisdictional investigation involving electronic components, as well as in follow-on class action suits
  • Represent several individuals in separate multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency investigations involving the financial services industry
  • Represented a high-level executive in federal and state criminal investigations in the energy industry, as well as follow-on civil litigation
  • Represented a high-level executive of an international ocean carrier in an investigation involving the ocean shipping industry
  • Represented an international air carrier in a multi-year, international price-fixing investigation, as well as in civil follow-on class action suits
  • Represented a leading supplier in the DOJ's DRAM investigation
  • Represented a consumer goods supplier in closing down a criminal investigation conducted by the DOJ
  • Represented an individual in a case involving the transfer of money in Latin America
  • Represented a shipping company seeking immunity from the DOJ under the Shipping Act
  • Represented a company involved in a criminal investigation relating to construction contracts in Egypt
  • Represented a SRAM supplier in connection with litigation derived from the DOJ's investigation into SRAM price-fixing allegations
  • Represented a client in connection with the DOJ's E-Rate investigation relating to bid rigging in the provision of computer supplies to government-funded education programs
  • Represented an angel investor in a DOJ investigation into a potential bid-rigging scheme in the venture capital market
  • Represented a private equity firm in a bid-rigging investigation by the DOJ
  • Assisted an energy company and one of its employees in a bid-rigging investigation

Authorities have recently targeted the technology, biotechnology, automotive, transportation, and financial services industries, among others, but no industrial sector is immune from an investigation of suspected cartel violations. Our attorneys have vast experience in a variety of sectors, as the list of examples above demonstrates.

Of course, the best offense is a good defense, and we partner with our clients to ensure that they take steps to avoid the prospect of a damaging criminal investigation. We work with our clients to set up compliance programs tailored to their business needs and objectives.