The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) is one of the primary government enforcement bodies for antitrust violations in the United States, and is the only federal agency that can pursue criminal violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The DOJ also pursues civil antitrust violations along with the Federal Trade Commission.
Activities of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division
The DOJ enforces federal antitrust laws along with the Federal Trade Commission. The DOJ uses a variety of tools to investigate and prosecute criminal antitrust violations:
- Working with the FBI to investigate and obtain evidence
- Court authorized searches of businesses
- Secret recordings by informants of telephone calls and meetings
- Ability to grant immunity to individuals and corporations who provide timely information needed to prosecute others for antitrust violations
Enforcement under the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division
Although most Sherman Act violation enforcements are civil, the Sherman Act is a criminal law. The DOJ is the only agency that may pursue criminal cases against individuals and companies that violate it. Criminal Sherman Act violations are usually limited to clear and intentional violations such as price fixing or bid rigging.
The penalties for criminal violations of the Sherman Act can be severe. The maximum penalty for an individual can be as high as $1 million and 10 years in federal prison. For corporations, the penalty can be as high as $100 million.
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