Incoming legislation will dramatically increase the number of businessmen who go to jail for cartel activity, after the current regime secured convictions in just one price-fixing case.
In nine years since the Enterprise Act was introduced, only three directors accused of fixing the price of marine hoses for fuel tankers have been proven to have acted "dishonestly". The Office of Fair Trading effectively has to prove that the bid-rigging or other form of collusion was wilful rather than accidental in order to pursue a criminal conviction.
This is a higher hurdle than in the US, where this so-called mental element is not relevant. The OFT has, in fact, only been able to bring two cases to trial, although a high-profile case against British Airways executives for allegedly conspiring to fix fuel surcharges collapsed.
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is currently going through the House of Commons. Bruce Kilpatrick, a partner at legal firm Addleshaw Goddard, said: "Removing the dishonesty element would certainly open up the possibility of prosecutions of more individuals for cartel conduct leading to jail time."
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