United States: U.S. Antitrust Agencies Issue Revised Model Waiver Of Confidentiality For Mergers And Non-Merger Civil Investigations

The U.S. antitrust agencies recently issued a revised model waiver of confidentiality for individuals and companies to use in merger and civil non-merger matters that cross international borders. As more companies engage in activities that affect multiple jurisdictions, competition authorities are increasingly cooperating with each other to ensure some measure of consistency in how they conduct investigations. The subjects of these investigations are justifiably concerned about what this means for their confidential information. The joint model waiver provides the business community and their counsel with useful guidance so that they can make a more informed decision about whether or not to grant a waiver. 

What are confidentiality waivers?

Information provided to the U.S. agencies during investigations is subject to strict statutory confidentiality protections. The U.S. agencies are prohibited from disclosing this information to others, including to foreign competition authorities, without prior consent.  Consent is obtained through the use of confidentiality waivers—agreements between the DOJ or FTC and the entity under investigation—that permit the U.S. agency to exchange investigation-related documents and information with one of more non-U.S. agencies. The decision whether to provide a waiver has always been, and remains, voluntary, and refusing to agree to an agency request does not prejudice the outcome of the investigation. Waivers have been used by the DOJ and the FTC for years, especially in merger cases, although each has used its own preferred model form.

What's new about the U.S. model waiver?

The model waiver jointly issued by the U.S. antitrust agencies and the accompanying Frequency Asked Questions (FAQ) released by the FTC staff reflect the agencies' recent experience with waivers, incorporates updated language and provisions, and provides a uniform approach that both agencies will use in future investigations. As a practical matter, the joint model waiver memorializes prior past practice.  A few things worth noting:

  • Treatment of privileged documents.  The DOJ and the FTC will not use a waiver as a "backdoor" to collect information from a foreign agency that would be privileged under U.S. privilege law. This is important because the scope of the legal privilege varies by jurisdiction. For example, advice from in-house counsel is generally privileged under U.S. law, but is not under European Community law or under the laws of several Asian countries. Because a privilege determination needs to be made up front, the FAQ provides that, "to the extent possible, [the producing party should] clearly identify any documents that are privileged under U.S. law, e.g., information subject to the attorney-client privilege, that are provided to non-U.S. competition authorities." Recognizing the difficulty in satisfying this recommendation, the FAQ goes on to state that, in the event the U.S. agencies receive privileged documents from a non-U.S. competition authority, they will return, sequester, or destroy the privileged information.  
  • Information obtained from non-U.S. competition authorities. The model waiver provides that, when the U.S. agencies receive confidential information from non-U.S. competition authorities pursuant to a waiver, it is treated as if they had requested the material directly from the entity under investigation, making it subject to the applicable U.S. confidentiality provisions. Entities can take some comfort in this position because U.S. agencies generally afford significant confidentiality protections to materials that they request during investigations.
  • Information provided to non-U.S. competition authorities. According to the model waiver, information that the U.S. agencies send to non-U.S. authorities listed in the waiver will be protected in accordance with the recipient non-U.S. competition authority's statutes and rules. Although this is not new, it reaffirms that (i) entities need to understand the non-U.S. competition authority's confidentiality protections and (ii) they should memorialize that understanding in a simultaneous waiver submitted to the non-U.S. competition authority.   

Are confidentiality waivers a good idea, and does the model waiver make the decision easier?

The model waiver provides useful guidance, especially concerning the treatment of privileged documents, but it does not meaningfully change the analysis about whether a party should grant a waiver. In general, waivers will remain more common in merger cases (where the parties are trying to work with agencies to obtain clearance) than in non-merger civil investigations (where a party may not be keen to help multiple agencies' with their investigation, which ultimately could result in liability). Regardless of the context, waivers are of questionable utility if a matter does not raise similar competition issues across jurisdictions. Other concerns include:  (i) if a non-U.S. agency is not able to provide sufficient confidentiality protections, (ii) if the substantive law in the receiving jurisdiction is more likely to result in enforcement action, and (iii) if the receiving jurisdiction could not access the materials but for the waiver (e.g., U.S. deposition transcripts). 

In appropriate cases, however, granting a waiver makes sense. For example, merging parties in a cross border transaction often require regulatory clearance from several jurisdictions before they can close. Waivers can allow the parties to avoid duplicative productions to multiple agencies that are seeking the same documents, data, and information.  Further, by facilitating better coordination among regulators, providing a waiver may facilitate more efficient investigations and non-conflicting remedies (e.g., asset divestitures located in one or more jurisdictions). Moreover, the U.S. agencies and their foreign counterparts still may cooperate without a waiver, but may not exchange confidential information provided by the parties.  Finally, if after consulting with counsel a party is inclined to agree to a waiver, it should be mindful that the U.S. agencies' model waiver is just that—a model. There could be circumstances when the party should try to negotiate a more limited waiver with DOJ or FTC. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
J. Bruce McDonald
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions