By Greg Hammond, J.D.
Over the last eight years, the Justice Department Antitrust Division’s criminal program has obtained the largest fines in the Division’s history, stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata B. Hesse in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, in remarks presented yesterday at the 26th Annual Golden State Antitrust, UCL and Privacy Law Institute in San Francisco.
In the auto parts industry, criminal fines of nearly $2.9 billion have been entered—the largest fines in the Division’s history, according to Hesse. In addition, the Antitrust Division announced last year more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties from corporate offenders in a single investigation in the financial-services sector.
However, "It’s no secret that we believe the most effective deterrent to antitrust felonies is prison time for those who commit them," Hesse stated. Across all investigations over the past four years, the Antitrust Division has obtained convictions against 118 individuals and held accountable a corresponding 78 corporate offenders. The ratio of individual to corporate convictions was more than two to one, according to Hesse—353 individuals to 150 corporate convictions.
Nevertheless, "The measure of success for any criminal-enforcement program is not merely the number of cases it successfully prosecutes, but also the breadth of critical industries it touches in various sectors of the economy, and the impact on American consumers," Hesse remarked. "It’s been my privilege to both watch and participate in the development of the Division’s criminal program, and I have come to deeply appreciate the sound policy objectives and appropriate exercises of prosecutorial discretion that sustain it."
This process, according to Hesse, "requires thought, and frankly, humility." She further noted that every case is an opportunity to ask whether the Division’s choices led to outcomes that serve the principles of which it has a duty to defend. "And the answers in this investigation inform our judgment in the next, so we learn from our mistakes, ponder the consequences of roads not taken, and wonder about alternative strategies yet to be employed," she said.
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