The annual Global Antitrust Trends report, published by Clifford Chance, has identified global themes and antitrust challenges that are most relevant to international businesses.
This year's report flags four major antitrust themes that will have significant implications to businesses and M&A environment around the world, in light of growing political tensions, development of the digital economy and increasing regulatory scrutiny. Merger control sees antitrust authorities across the EU as well as in China getting tougher on gun-jumping violation cases. New rules, agencies and policies are emerging across jurisdictions to modernise and strengthen merger review processes. Enforcement punishment is getting tougher. The European Commission's €4.34 billion antitrust fine on Google broke the world record, but a number of Asia-Pacific authorities have also imposed their highest ever fines in the past year. At the same time, authorities are expanding their tools to improve efficiency in handling the increased amount of antitrust cases and there is growing competition between European venues to attract damages claims. The evolution of the digital economy and online platforms growing market power is being matched by antitrust authorities intensifying their focus on the tech sector and refining their thinking on the role of data in antitrust infringements and merger assessments. Regulators in various jurisdictions are putting forward new plans and special task forces to police tech companies.
Sophisticated compliance needed
A growing global trend is the increased politicisation of M&A and antitrust continues. From the US to the EU, the scope of deals raising national security concerns has continues to expand, posing further risks for infrastructure, technology and data-driven transactions. Thomas Vinje, chairman of Clifford Chance global antitrust group commented, “Antitrust is making headlines. We are seeing tougher enforcement against mergers and anticompetitive conduct on all continents, driven by a growing public and political consensus that more should be done to curb market power. The antitrust horizon is particularly foreboding for big tech players, with numerous jurisdictions planning more stringent regulation. Sophisticated compliance will be required to achieve and maintain a competitive edge in the coming year.”