Regulatory probes are an expected part of life for companies that are globally successful, have their hand in various markets, and employ thousands of people. Tech companies in particular have been in the spotlight for probes involving antitrust issues — Google and Apple to name but two. The European Commission has aggressively taken U.S. technology companies to task for their violation of antitrust, and anticompetitive regulations set in place in Europe. A recent study from law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has revealed that the trends of antitrust and regulatory probes have actually influenced the way governments have pushed political and economic agendas, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Governments — particularly the U.S. and the E.U.’s regulatory bodies — have been putting pressure on companies that have experienced mounting success to abide by regulatory rules regarding competition and price-setting. And the number of antitrust cases is only set to increase as the encouraging of privately pursuing companies to compensate for antitrust violations is on the rise.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s report states: “As we see antitrust intertwining more closely with sector regulation, it is also no surprise that the growing number of parallel investigations looks set to continue on an upward trajectory. This, coupled with governments and regulators actively encouraging consumers to bring private actions for damages, will present a significant strategic challenge for many businesses in the year ahead.”
The changes in the regulatory probing and antitrust rules are now causing boards of corporations to change tack. Of course, compliance is at the helm of this concern, for it follows that with an adequate compliance team — of which the CCO is the head — companies are well rid of expensive antitrust violation fees. The WSJ‘s report describes how the U.S. government alone accrued nearly $1 billion in 2013 and $1 billion in 2012 as a result of antitrust violation fines.
Compliance officers will likely enjoy a heightened role of performance, and more esteem in the boards of companies as a result of these more aggressive antitrust investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, but they should also be wary of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s promised vigilance in pursuing and holding compliance officers accountable in the future.