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Leniency Programs in Latin America: New Tools for Cartel Enforcement

 |  November 5, 2010

Elisa Mariscal, Carlos Mena-Labarthe, Nov 05, 2010

The fight against cartels has become a central feature for many competition agencies. In Latin America, this fight is long overdue as the prevalence of cartels has historically harmed competition in both large and small markets. The introduction of immunity and leniency programs to fight hard-core cartels is an important challenge for many authorities in the region.  They have to garner the necessary expertise to administer these programs, increasingly join and even cooperate with their international counterparts, and learn the nuances in their legal systems when implementing them and enforcing their competition legislation. Nonetheless, these programs have proven to be extremely effective, low-cost tools that have uncovered a number of cartels in a relatively short period of time.

We present some information on the differences among these programs in eight Latin American countries and discuss some of the advantages and challenges that each have faced in using this tool to investigate cartels. While we note that increases to monetary fines and sanctions would improve the effectiveness of these programs, we also believe that, on their own, there is room for leniency programs to grow and become more effective for antitrust agencies in Latin America.