Antitrust agencies to sign up to international framework on procedure, DOJ’s Alford says

2 April 2019 6:20pm

26 March 2019. By Max Fillion.

Competition watchdogs around the globe are set to adopt a new framework on the due process rights of companies under investigation, a senior US Department of Justice official said, adding that a US-led initiative had helped bolster the International Competition Network's text.

“The proposal is expected to be adopted by the ICN in the next few weeks,” Roger Alford, deputy assistant attorney general for international affairs, said at an FTC hearing** today.

The DOJ will continue to pursue its Multilateral Framework on Procedures, or MFP, said Alford, for those unwilling to adopt the International Competition Network initiative. Worldwide, 104 competition agencies participate in the ICN. China is the only major economy not participating in the network, it is understood.

Alford said the framework was developed from conversations that began after the DOJ announced the MFP last year. The DOJ engaged with more than 50 antitrust agencies to develop a text that includes fundamental due process principles, Alford said.  

“The text that resulted from this process, the framework on competition agencies and procedures, incorporates the substantive principles of the MFP and combines these principles with review mechanisms that closely parallel the mechanisms in the MFP,” Alford said.

“The proposal identifies approximately a dozen universal principles that are widely accepted across the globe,” Alford added. “The proposal complements these substantive provisions with strong adherence cooperation and review mechanisms designed to ensure meaningful compliance.”

At a separate event*** later in the day, Alford said the ICN framework crystallizes the existing practices in major jurisdictions. It also will have a compliance mechanism in which agencies can engage in bilateral or multilateral discussions, he said.

In response to a question about China, Alford said the country’s agency is welcome to join either the ICN framework or the separate MFP.

“We have been actively engaged in discussions with them we are hopeful they will want to do that,” he said.

At the same event, Nicholas Banasevic, head of unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General  for Competition, said the commission agrees on the principles under discussion at ICN.

“We believe ICN is the right framework for a multilateral solution,” he said, adding that he wasn’t commenting on the specifics. “We are glad that the ICN is an agreed framework.”

Senior officials from Brazil, Canada and Singapore’s competition authorities, all speaking at the same event, declined to comment on the ICN framework.

Andrea Jelinek