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Antitrust Compliance—It’s All About the Culture

Theodore Banks, Feb 14, 2012

What does it take to develop an antitrust compliance program that works? There are a lot of pieces. The employees must be presented with materials that are directly relevant to each of their jobs. It must be done in a way that is easily understandable. It must be ubiquitous, so that little or no effort is needed to gain access to information. There should also be business controls so that violations are not easy to accomplish-or difficult to detect.

We've known these things for a long time. In antitrust, which in many ways is the grandfather (or perhaps the godfather) of corporate compliance programs, we've had detailed policies, handbooks, training courses, videos, slides. No shortage of information-yet the violations continue. The Justice Department seems to have given up on compliance when it comes to antitrust. Their main method to control cartel behavior is not to encourage prevention (i.e., compliance), but to encourage confession (i.e., the amnesty program). In fact, they are apparently so disgusted with the sorry state of compliance that they got a carve-out from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines when it comes to antitrust. If convicted of a violation of any other federal criminal law, the company can get credit for good intentions if its compliance program met the definition of an "effective" program. But not true for antitrust.

 

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