Economies in recession favor cartels

Economies in recession favor cartels - 31 October 2008

Compliance with competition law is higher than ever on the risk management agenda for companies in all sectors. The reasons to this trend are the constant increase of administrative fines for breaching the competition law, emerging private damages actions and the negative publicity with harmful effects on the company public image. In 2007, the European Commission alone imposed cartel penalties in excess of Euro 3.5 billion, while in Romania the fines for cartels and abuses of dominant position are also rising rapidly.

“The fact that we intend to draw attention and build companies’ awareness towards compliance with competition law is a very appropriate thing we can do under the current situation of economic downturn and market recession which favor cartels and other prohibited anti-competitive practices”, stated Catalin Grigorescu, partner and head of competition practice area with bpv GRIGORESCU. “When confronted with a reduction in their client base and with profit decrease, companies are more inclined to price fixing practices, market allocation or cartels formation” added Catalin Grigorescu.

Under these circumstances, the seminar “Practical Competition Law: Compliance, Leniency and Damages” organized by bpv GRIGORESCU, gave a comprehensive and commercially updated view on key practical enforcement issues. The event took place at Radisson SAS Hotel on October 29, 2008 and gathered over 60 managers, in-house lawyers and compliance officers.

The seminar was focused on prohibited anti-competitive practices, compliance issues, leniency and settlements, as well as damages claims, labor law matters and criminal sanctions. The seminar also covered the implications of labor and criminal law raised in the context of national and European anti-competitive behavior.

The contributions addressed a broad range of practical issues in order to enable participating companies to carry out a learned self-assessment, thus helping them to minimize risk and limit financial damage. Speakers concluded that the law is complex and fast-changing as the EU and national competition authorities continue to refine and focus their approach to competition enforcement. These facts force companies to become aware of the need to implement a compliance culture within their organizations through compliance programs addressed to their employees and management.

As far as the law firms are concerned, the ones that will quickly tap into this opportunity by specializing lawyers to cover clients’ needs in the practice area of EU and competition law are likely to benefit greatly. The law firms that have specialized team of lawyers already in place will concentrate on consolidating and growing this practice area.

bpv GRIGORESCU’s competition law practice is one of the leading practices in Romania and won recognition from clients, peers and leading international guides to the legal markets. According to the latest researches conducted by the PLC Which Lawyer?, a leading international guide to the legal markets across Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, the company received the “recommended” credential for Competition practice area and at the same time Catalin Grigorescu was upgraded to “highly recommended” for his expertise in Competition and Antitrust Law, the first time when this level of recommendation was introduced with respect to Romanian practitioners.

Chambers and Partners publication (in its 2008 edition) ranks bpv GRIGORESCU in a top position and recommends Catalin Grigorescu as an excellent practitioner in competition law. “Practice head Catalin Grigorescu is described as “the biggest asset to the firm – his fluency in English, German and Romanian means he can always communicate clearly, plus he has excellent contacts and produces quality work,” agreed clients”.

The affiliation to the Central and Eastern European bpv LEGAL alliance gives us a strategic advantage due to the competence center in Brussels that offers the ideal support in dealing with multinational competition cases and makes us one of the very few Romanian firms to have on-location EU Law capabilities and access to EU regulatory and decision bodies, EU courts, authorities, country and regional representation offices and industry representatives. In addition, our bpv LEGAL alliance partner firms enjoy highly ranked positions in the area of EU and Competition Law in their respective jurisdictions.
Clients’ requests for legal advice on regulatory issues are on an increasing trend not only with regard to competition law but also with regard to energy, environment or public procurement.

“We are now confronting a situation in which our legal consultancy services are equally split between regulatory and transactions and the trend is that regulatory issues will increase in view of the current economic context and decreasing transactions” said Catalin Grigorescu, partner with bpv GRIGORESCU.