Enforcement data for the first half of the year shows a marked reduction in the total amount of fines imposed by competition authorities in the region. At $176 million, this amount is a quarter of the figure recorded during the same period last year. The number of decisions in which fines are imposed is also smaller, at 40 against 54 for the same period last year.
It is too early to tell whether the year will end with a lesser level of enforcement overall, although it is worthy to note that the jurisdictions with the most active competition law enforcers as measured by fines remain the same (Korea, Japan, Indonesia, China and Taiwan).
The affected industrial sectors are also largely the same, with capital-intensive industries such as construction, transport and telecommunications accounting for the most decisions. The types of infringements leading to an imposition of fines are also largely similar to those from previous years: bid-rigging and cartels account for the majority of cases, while procedural infringements (failures to seek merger clearance and obstruction of investigations) continue to be a focus of enforcement, particularly in China and Korea. Meanwhile, decisions sanctioning abuses of market power continue to be few.
As at June 30, 2017 by fine amounts
As compared to last year, the main difference relates to the amount of fines imposed in each decision. In previous years, the enforcers’ caseload comprised a higher proportion of infringements affecting a more significant value of sales, leading to comparatively higher fines.
As at June 30, 2017 in number of decisions
It may well be that enforcement activities in the second half of the year will lead to the adoption of more significant fines, perhaps in respect of bid-rigging of higher value contracts, or of a long-lasting cartel involving a significant volume of sales. However, a continued dearth of high-value cases could indicate a growing reluctance for parties to volunteer evidence to competition enforcers under leniency procedures, choosing instead to vigorously defend themselves in a context where decisions imposing administrative fines increasingly lead to follow-on private litigation or to criminal investigations against executives.