Cartels: Just one more fix

THE International Cartel Workshop might sound like a coaching session for would-be price-fixers. But the biennial event, run by the International Bar Association, is in fact an opportunity for lawyers to learn how their clients can avoid falling foul of the law, how to respond if they do and what is on the minds of the competition officials who attend. The latest get-together, held in Rome in February, featured a three-day-long “hypothetical” in which delegates acted out a loosely scripted scenario featuring a fictional American camera-maker that discovers its sales team has been colluding with European and Japanese rivals, and tries to limit the damage by reporting the sin to the authorities.Grey suits, wooden acting and hour-long scenes about document discovery are not everyone’s idea of gripping drama. But cartel enforcement is a hot topic in boardrooms. Fines and jail terms have shot up in recent years, greatly raising the costs of collusion. Big firms such as GE and Bosch have assembled teams of in-house lawyers that focus solely on the issue.Even for the biggest companies, ensuring compliance is hard. On March 20th Brazil’s cartel office announced a probe…

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