Leniency—What Exactly are the Implications for the Applying Undertaking in the European Union?

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

Marcin Trepka, Sep 16, 2015

Leniency programs are one of the most revolutionary solutions introduced into cartel detection and prosecution systems in the last few decades. Leniency has increasingly become a powerful tool at the disposal of the antitrust authorities who frequently rely on it in fighting cartels. Due to the fact that many of the large global cartels have been identified and investigated as a result of immunity applications, leniency is very often considered as the most effective tool for detecting cartel activity.

The antitrust authorities benefit significantly from leniency programs. Thanks to cooperation with former cartelists they are afforded an opportunity to obtain insider evidence on cartel infringement, which otherwise may be difficult to detect because of the secret nature of cartels. Conversely, a cartel participant reporting itself, and providing evidence of a cartel, can obtain total immunity from a fine or a reduction of such penalty.

Examples of recent high profile European Commission  antitrust investigations in which leniency played a significant role are recent cartels in euro and yen interest rate derivatives. Barclays’ revealing of the existence of the euro cartel meant it obtained full immunity and thereby helped it to avoid a fine of around EUR 690 million for its participation in the infringement. At the same time, UBS received full immunity for revealing the exis…


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