A new office within the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division will be tasked with monitoring corporate compliance initiatives connected with DOJ antitrust judgments, as well as evaluating whistleblower complaints regarding those judgments.
The newly created Office of Decree Enforcement and Compliance (ODEC) will also be tasked with evaluating requests for credit by companies under investigation that implement DOJ-ordered compliance directives and initiatives.
Additionally, ODEC will advise the Antitrust Division’s criminal sections as they consider charges against companies deemed to have violated federal antitrust laws, according to a DOJ press release Thursday. The office will become the Antitrust Division’s primary contact for complainants—aka whistleblowers—who have “information regarding potential violations of final judgments.”
“The changes will help ensure that effective enforcement, rather than regulation, is the touchstone of settlement decrees and related agreements,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement.
The new office will be led by Lawrence Reicher, who most recently served as counsel to the assistant attorney general.
The changes build on two recent antitrust cases, with Live Nation and CenturyLink, that involved violations of existing DOJ consent decrees, as well as ongoing monitoring of those orders.
In a 2019 settlement with Live Nation, the DOJ and ticket broker extended a 2010 judgment for five more years. While the original judgment barred Live Nation from retaliating against venues for using other ticket sellers, the DOJ determined Live Nation had broken this part of the order multiple times. The new, extended settlement made clear that such retaliation against venues is prohibited.
In the CenturyLink case, the telecommunications company allegedly violated a DOJ judgment regarding the company’s purchase of competitor Level 3 Communications more than 70 times when CenturyLink representatives contacted Level 3 customers who had chosen to move to another carrier. In that case, the DOJ chose to extend the monitoring period by two years and impose an independent monitoring trustee.
The DOJ on Thursday also announced the creation of a Civil Conduct Task Force: an independent, dedicated group of division attorneys who will work “to identify conduct investigations that require additional focus and resources,” with “a consistent mandate to investigate and, ultimately, prosecute civil conduct violations of the antitrust laws.”
The DOJ will reshuffle the responsibilities among the division’s six civil sections to better reflect changes in the market. The Media, Entertainment and Professional Services section will pivot its attention to financial services, fintech, and banking—three areas of focus that were previously spread among other sections. Responsibility for media, entertainment, and professional services will be folded into the Telecommunications and Broadband section. The Technology and Financial Services section will focus full time on technology markets and the competitive characteristics of platform business models, the DOJ said.