Comment on Cartel Enforcement in the Trump Administration

By John M. Connor 

This comment examines trends in anti-cartel enforcement by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (the Division) and coordinated actions by other U.S. Government agencies, with particular attention paid to developments in 2017 and 2018. It examines three measures of cartel-enforcement. Whether the Trump administration can develop a strong anti-cartel enforcement record by the end of 2020 is dubious. Progress demonstrated in 2017-2018 seems to rest primarily upon initiatives launched in the late Obama administration. During 2017-2018, the Division’s cartel record on (1) the number of cases initiated in 2017-18, (2) the number of cartels penalized, (3) the number of cartelists punished, and (4) the size of penalties imposed is very low by the standards of the W. H. Bush and Obama administrations. Moreover, by scanning what has become public about cartel investigations initiated in 2017-2018, the backlog of potentially important cartel cases appears to be slim.

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