Wednesday, October 18, 2017
John M. Connor, American Antitrust Institute (AAI) offers The German Auto-Emissions Scandal: Likely U.S. Antitrust Response.
ABSTRACT: After years of being regarded as an environmental and consumer-protection issue, the German diesel-motor emissions scandal has suddenly morphed into an antitrust case. Press reports indicate that at least five German auto or auto-parts makers are under investigation by European competition-law authorities. In this comment, I focus on the historical and likely future responses of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to allegations of collusion among the largest German auto manufacturers identified in the press as of 8 August 2017. I predict that the DOJ is likely to treat allegations of cartelization through manipulation of technology as simply another in a long stream of auto-parts cartels. Assuming that there is evidence of effects on the U.S. auto market, the all-German make-up of this putative cartel will be no barrier to prosecution. However, the somewhat unusual type of conduct of this remarkably close R&D collaboration means that U.S. prosecutors will have to consider several legal and economic features that are out of the ordinary.