The leniency comeback

A view from Germany by Thomas G Funke

Leniency is alive and kicking. In 2022, the European Commission received twice the number of leniency applications as in 2021, and three times as many as in 2020. 1 This trend coincides with an uptick in the number of investigations, indicating that a credible threat of enforcement is paramount when it comes to  deciding to whether to blow the whistle on a cartel.

The Covid-19 years saw a slowdown in antitrust enforcement across the world; it came close to a standstill in some jurisdictions. With enforcers confi ned to home offices, dawn raids were few and far between. The European Commission and the national competition authorities of the EU member states focused on  digital antitrust, pursuing dominance cases against Big Tech. It was only logical for traditional cartelists to conclude that the risk of being discovered or pursued was signifi cantly reduced. The number of leniency applications was at an all-time low in 2020-