Bargaining in the Shadow of the European Settlement Procedure for Cartels
27 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2010 Last revised: 30 Mar 2011
Date Written: December 22, 2010
In its recently implemented settlement procedure for cartels, the European Commission pledges not to negotiate the appropriate sanction. The Commission offers a take-it-or-leave-it 10% reduction of the ultimate fine only in exchange for acknowledgment of the facts. Yet there are at least three dimensions open for bargaining in cartel cases. One is the determination of the fine base to which the 10% reduction is applied. A second is the additional percentages of fine reductions that are awarded to subsequent leniency applicants. A third is the phrasing that the Commission uses in its public communications about the case – including the eventually published formal decision. The Commission’s consistent negation of any negotiation space may well be part of its bargaining strategy. The door on fine discount discussions shut, talks are channeled to the other bargaining points, where the Commission has more leeway to find an agreement. By disabling the only hard bargaining point, however, the Commission may unintentionally have put itself in a weak bargaining position. To avoid detrimental effects on the overall deterrence of cartels in Europe, the European Commission should credibly commit itself to being a tough negotiator, if not by enabling individual percentage fine reductions after all, then by embedding a binding and full independent review of all settlement proposals in the procedure.
Keywords: Cartel, Settlement, Fines, Antitrust Damages
JEL Classification: C78, K21, K40, L40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation