If you have ever worked at a large American multinational company you have received training on anti-trust. You are told not to collaborate with key competitors and not to share information such as pricing, components or other sensitive information. This is beyond simply from the security aspect. U.S. anti-trust enforcement is well-known, and training to prevent violations is a key part of every corporate anti-trust compliance training program.
In other cultures and other parts of the world, however, there is not such a strong prohibition against competitors’ collaboration. In fact, in the auto industries in Germany this collaboration drew the name of “frenemies” for automakers that competed while collaborating. Reports, however, indicate such collaboration is now under regulatory scrutiny. Making the allegations even more damning is that they are centered around the emissions-testing scandal which engulfed Volkswagen and may now overtake BMW and Daimler as well.
Amazingly enough, it appears that VW may have been the first company to self-report the cartel behavior, although Daimler has now self-reported as well. BMW, very publicly and very noisily has denied any such collaboration or cartel behavior. The allegations in the diesel emissions-scandal relate to the specifications of emissions equipment and “included dozens of working committees that discussed how to limit competition on new technologies, including emissions systems.”
The German manufacturing system is quite different from the American system in this regard. The Man From FCPA comes out of the energy services industry where there was not the slightest attempt to engage in such behavior and there was annual training to prevent it. Any industry meetings were scrutinized by both company lawyers and government regulators for the slightest hint of collaboration. But this system has worked to make German auto manufacturers the employers of some 800,000 Germans and control fully 20 percent of the country’s economy.
For the compliance practitioner the message is clear: Dust off some anti-trust training and provide to your high-risk employees forthwith.