The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced today that it is creating the Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance and a Civil Conduct Task Force. Additionally, it will redistribute matters among its six civil sections in order to build expertise based on current trends in the economy.
The Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance will have primary responsibility for enforcing judgments and consent decrees in civil matters. It will also advise the Antitrust Division’s criminal sections when parties seek credit at the charging stage for their corporate compliance programs. The office will work closely with division attorneys, monitors, and compliance officers to ensure the effective implementation of and compliance with antitrust judgments. Additionally, the office will be the Antitrust Division’s primary contact for complainants who have information regarding potential violations of those final judgments. Any such concerns should be reported directly to ODEC@usdoj.gov.
“The Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance will ensure the American consumer fully benefits from the Antitrust Division’s hard work identifying anticompetitive mergers and conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “We are building on our recent successes in Live Nation and CenturyLink. Those matters show how important it is to enforce our consent decrees vigilantly.”
The establishment of the office is the culmination of efforts announced by Assistant Attorney General Delrahim in 2018 at the University of Chicago, to ensure that effective enforcement, rather than regulation, is the touchstone of settlement decrees and related agreements. These efforts are apparent in the Division’s revised, pro-consumer standard decree terms.
The Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance will be led by Lawrence Reicher, who most recently served as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General and was awarded DOJ’s John Marshall Award for his leadership of the Division’s Judgment Termination Initiative, the review and termination of perpetual judgments dating to the 1890s. “I am confident that under Larry’s leadership, the Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance will hold parties fully to account for the agreements they enter with the Antitrust Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim.
The second change to the Antitrust Division’s civil enforcement program is the creation of the Civil Conduct Task Force. This dedicated group of Division attorneys will work across the civil sections and field offices to identify conduct investigations that require additional focus and resources. As an independent group, the task force will have the dedicated resources and a consistent mandate to investigate and, ultimately, prosecute civil conduct violations of the antitrust laws.
“This task force will energize and prioritize non-merger civil enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “Concentrating responsibility will mean greater accountability for these important investigations that lack the statutory deadlines of many merger investigations.”
The third change announced today is the realignment of certain responsibilities within the Antitrust Division’s six civil sections. The allocation of commodities among sections has evolved over the years, and today’s announcement is a recognition that technology has reshaped the competitive dynamics in several industries that the Antitrust Division analyzes on a regular basis.
“This realignment recognizes how technology trends have changed the way Americans consume financial services as well as media and communications services. It will make the Antitrust Division more efficient and more effective enforcing the antitrust laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “This result is better for companies under investigation and, more importantly, leads to outcomes that benefit the American consumer.”
Specifically, the currently named Media, Entertainment, and Professional Services Section will shift attention to financial services, fintech, and banking. Those commodities were previously divided across three other civil sections. The currently named Telecommunications and Broadband Section will expand its portfolio to concentrate on media, entertainment, and telecommunications industries. Lastly, the currently named Technology and Financial Services section will focus full time on technology markets and the competitive characteristics of platform business models.
Name changes to these sections to reflect their new responsibilities will follow.