Parallel civil and criminal investigations
Produced in partnership with Winston & Strawn LLP

The following Competition practice note produced in partnership with Winston & Strawn LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Parallel civil and criminal investigations
  • Civil and criminal powers
  • Immunity—where interests can diverge
  • Potential for extradition
  • Enforcement in practice
  • For further information, see:

Parallel civil and criminal investigations

The UK criminal cartel offence which applies to individuals has been in force since June 2003, with amendments that came into force on 1 April 2014 (see The UK criminal cartel offence).

It was anticipated that the introduction of the criminal cartel offence would, through the operation of a leniency programme, encourage whistle-blowing by those involved in a cartel and who wished to avoid being criminally prosecuted. In practical terms, this means that a company involved in cartel activity can expect the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to consider initiating both:

  1. civil investigations (in respect of the company) (see UK investigations—steps in investigations),and

  2. criminal (in respect of the individuals) (see The criminal investigation process for the cartel offence).

While the parties to the investigations and the legal standards applied are different, overlaps are inevitable since the facts under investigation will be the same (although there may be different versions of the same events). Accordingly, companies and individuals must be carefully advised as to both civil and criminal procedures and potential exposure.

Civil and criminal powers

The CMA has specific investigatory powers that it may use where it has a reasonable suspicion that a cartel offence has been committed. The CMA must, however, only use its criminal powers of investigation in relation to the cartel offence, not for any breaches

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