Leah covers antitrust for Politico. She previously spent eight years at MLex, a regulatory news service owned by
LexisNexis, where she led a global team of reporters focused on competition policy. She has also written for
Bloomberg and Congressional Quarterly. Leah was an Abe Journalist Fellow in 2014 and spent her time in Japan
focused on a reporting project on price- fixing cartels and cartel deterrence policies.
Over the past 10 years, the US Department of Justice has fined dozens of major Japanese companies for price-fixing or bid-rigging, including household names such as Panasonic, Epson, Mitsubishi and Sharp. Those same companies have paid fines in the European Union, Brazil, Canada, Korea or other jurisdictions that impose sanctions on cartels, not to mention the billions of yen in fines required by the Japan's Fair Trade Commission for cartel conduct, which reached a record high in 2010 of surcharge payments imposed at 72 billion yen, or about $875 million US. Despite more than two decades of significant anti-cartel enforcement in the US and EU, more jurisdictions criminalizing cartels worldwide, and the JFTC's own efforts to curb the practices in Japan, the number of Japanese companies involved in cartel activity doesn't seem to be decreasing. Why -- given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to date on internal investigations and fines -- are cartels still so prevalent in Japan? At least part of the reason is probably cultural. Unlike in the United States, where trusts and cartels are almost universally viewed negatively, in Japan, cartels are often seen in a more positive light. The difference stems from Japanese business culture's historical focus on harmonization and cooperation between enterprises. Given Japan's unique economic history and business culture, are the current policies aimed at current cartel deterrence working? Or are there other policies that Japan Fair Trade Commission could implement to better assist companies with adopting effective compliance programs?