Private Recoveries In International Cartel Cases Worldwide: What Do The Data Show?

John M. Connor, Dec 12, 2012

Despite being around for more than a century in the United States, the role played by “treble-damages suits” in cartel enforcement is controversial. Some think of them as exemplars of a hyper-litigious society, while others perceive them as essential elements in a rational cartel-enforcement program. In the European Union and other jurisdictions outside the United States, the desirability and ideal design of private rights of action are currently matters of intense debates.

The purpose of this article is to examine the size and role played by private damages recoveries in antitrust suits directed at contemporary hard-core international price-fixing cartels. After discussing the data source for this article, I then describe the amounts and trends in U.S. settlements in private antitrust suits since 1990, the dominance of U.S. cases in the world, the extent to which private suits follow government investigations, and the severity of private recoveries relative to affected sales and to damages caused by the cartels. The last ratios can be used to judge the ex post deterrence power of current monetary cartel penalties.

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