The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) signed a new Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to strengthen both agencies' abilities to combat cartels and other anticompetitive conduct.
The United States first entered into a bilateral cooperation agreement on antitrust enforcement with Australia in 1982 and further agreed to a mutual enforcement assistance program in 1999. The new MOC is intended to further enhance the United States' and Australia's antitrust enforcement relationship by enabling the FBI and the ACCC to share expertise and exchange staff to enhance their work in detecting, investigating and prosecuting criminal anticompetitive conduct.
The ACCC Chairman said that the ACCC's relationship "with the FBI has deepened considerably in the past few years, including a visit by FBI representatives to Australia to discuss investigative techniques and information exchange." The Section Chief of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division said that the agency is "proud of its relationship with the ACCC," and that the MOC "codifies that relationship and provides opportunity for increased information- and resource-sharing as we work toward a common goal in preventing anti-competitive behavior."
The MOC will be particularly relevant to the agencies' cross-border cartel investigations. Cartels and other anticompetitive conduct are a significant focus for both the ACCC and the United States' antitrust enforcement agencies. The ACCC's Chairman stated earlier this year that the ACCC "aim[s] to have two to three criminal investigations come to conclusion and prosecutions commence each year."1 The US Department of Justice's Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division said last week that "prosecuting cartels remains [the Division's] highest priority."2
The United States or its agencies have bilateral cooperation agreements with Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, the European Union, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico and Peru (in addition to Australia). The United States has also entered into memoranda of understanding with enforcement agencies in China, India, Russia and South Korea.
Similarly, the ACCC has entered into cooperation agreements with enforcement agencies in Canada, New Zealand, China, Chinese Taipei, the European Union, Fiji, India, Japan, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea (in addition to the United States).
1 2019 Compliance and Enforcement Policy, speech to the Committee for Economic Development Australia, dated February 26, 2019.
2 Makan Delrahim, Asst. Att'y Gen., Dep't of Justice, Antitrust Div., Remarks at Roundtable Discussing the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement & Reform Act (Apr. 11, 2019).
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