Competition authorities had a busy 2013 busting cartels. According to law firm Allen & Overy, fines for price fixing, bid rigging and various other antitrust abuses reached a new record of $4.2 billion in seven key markets last year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012, itself a record-high at the time (see chart above).
The European Union levied the largest fines in 2013, thanks to the blockbuster $2.3 billion settlement with a group of banks and brokers accused of manipulating benchmark interest rates. (These fines would have been a whopping $7.4 billion if not for various whistleblowing and cooperation discounts.) Allen & Overy expects the financial services industry to attract the most attention from global trust busters again this year, as investigations into suspicious activity in a number of markets continue.
The steady stream of scandals in financial markets may garner the most headlines, but antitrust authorities have recently uncovered dodgy dealings in a wide variety of product and service markets. Judging from the diversity of regulatory actions last year, anyone who thinks that nefarious activity is limited largely to traders in arcane financial markets is in for a surprise. Here are just a few of the markets where firms were caught colluding with competitors last year:
- Euro-denominated interest rates
- Auto parts in the US, the EU, Japan and elsewhere
- Power cables in Australia
- Air cargo in Brazil
- Electricity supply in Taiwan
- Construction contracts in South Africa
- Milk powder in China
- Fish in Russia
- Rubber shoes in India
- Chocolate in Canada