We have particular expertise in criminal cartels, antitrust and competition litigation with what the Legal 500 directory describes as “a strong niche” in this field.
Competition law in the UK is enforced in one of two ways. Public enforcement involves investigations by public bodies, principally the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and – before Brexit – the European Commission (EC). Investigations can be civil or criminal in nature and the CMA has the power to levy substantial fines against a company that infringes competition law.
The criminal cartel offence applies to an individual who agrees to create or participate in arrangements involving price fixing, market/customer sharing, bid-rigging or output limitation (cartel behaviour). Individuals found guilty of an offence can face imprisonment, unlimited financial penalties and disqualification as director.
Private enforcement refers to actions for damages taken by companies or individuals who suffer a loss as a result of breaches of competition law. These claims can either follow a decision of the EC or CMA (known as “follow-on” claims) or be independent of such an investigation (“stand-alone” claims). London is one of the leading centres in the world for private enforcement of competition law and it is home to the specialist Competition Appeals Tribunal that deals with “follow-on” damages actions.
Peters & Peters has one of the UK’s leading competition and cartels teams. We have acted in every major criminal cartel investigation in recent years and regularly represent claimants and defendants in either follow-on or stand-alone claims.
Our clients include national and multi-national companies, directors and senior executives from across a wide range of sectors including: airlines, construction, technology, food and drink; automotive and manufacturing. We have acted for the English Department of Health for many years and have brought several successful actions against pharmaceutical companies for breaches of competition law as well as successfully defending two of the four defendants in the British Airways/Virgin prosecution who were acquitted without any evidence being called.
Our lawyers have been instrumental in developing the law and practice in this area and are recognised leading authorities. Many of our cases are international and we have successfully negotiated on behalf of clients with a number of regulators internationally, including the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the EC. We have assisted companies and individuals to obtain criminal and/or civil immunity, for example by taking advantage of a leniency programme.
- Peters & Peters continue to act for long-standing client the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in a claim against the French pharmaceutical group, Servier.
- Peters & Peters settled a follow-on damages claim brought by long-standing client the Secretary of State for Health against companies in the Reckitt Benckiser group. Reckitt had been found by the Office of Fair Trading (now the Competition and Markets Authority) to have infringed competition law by impeding market entry of a generic version of their blockbuster drug Gaviscon.
- Peters & Peters represented a global manufacturing company which was a defendant in a multi-million pound follow-on competition damages action commenced on the basis of the European Commission’s findings in relation to a cartel operating in the European market.
- Peters & Peters acted for two senior executives of Dunlop Oil and Marine who were arrested in the US for their involvement in a cartel to fix the price of marine hose and rig the bids for particular contracts around the world. With the firm’s assistance, the clients negotiated a unique plea agreement with the US Department of Justice which enabled them to serve their custodial sentence in the UK.
- We acted for two senior executives of British Airways in a high profile price-fixing investigation.