The Blanket Prohibition of Disclosure of Corporate Statements Contained in Article 6(1) of the Proposed Directive for Actions for Antitrust Damages: Proportional Safeguard of Public Enforcement or Insurmountable Burden for Claimants?
47 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2015
Date Written: August 18, 2014
The present paper will examine whether the blanket prohibition of disclosure of corporate statements contained in Article 6(1) of the draft proposal on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of the competition law provisions of the Member States and of the European Union is necessary to safeguard the attractiveness of the Commission's leniency programme or whether it represents an insurmountable burden for claimants that will in the long run severely hamper the private enforcement of EU Competition law (a most unfortunate outcome considering the main objective of the proposed Directive is precisely the opposite). On the one hand, excessive protection of leniency applicants' clemency submissions may lead to useless litigation and ultimately render the private enforcement of competition law in the EU pointless, as claimants are denied (purportedly) essential evidence for building stout damages cases. On the other hand, a more permissive approach towards the disclosure of such information may cripple the public enforcement of Competition law by discouraging cartelists to come forward in the first place. Given the fact that follow-on claims constitute a lion's share of current actions for antitrust damages brought in the EU, such a result would almost certainly have catastrophic consequences for individuals' right to compensation for the harm caused by infringements of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as recognised by the European Court of Justice in the Courage and Crehan and Manfredi and others judgments. We conclude that the Commission seems to be privileging immunity recipients at the cost of injured parties by imposing remedies that are too far reaching for the protection of the effectiveness of the leniency programmes, especially taking into consideration the lack of conclusive evidence proving that disclosure of corporate statements would discourage potential leniency applicants from collaborating with the competition authorities in the first place. In light of this, we contend that a case-by-case approach such as the one envisaged by the European Court of Justice in Pfleiderer is more adequate to strike the balance between the injured parties’ right to redress and the effectiveness of the leniency programmes – at least for the time being.
Keywords: Competition law, private enforcement, leniency programmes, actions for damages
JEL Classification: K21, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation