Cartel and Criminal Antitrust Investigations


Osler has extensive experience in providing clients who are faced with a Competition Bureau investigation or potential prosecution with responsive and practical legal advice. We assess and recommend ways to mitigate risk through preventative and compliance measures, and provide strategic advice when an initial inquiry becomes a full-blown investigation, whether on a domestic matter or one involving multi-jurisdictional activities. Where an investigation points to possible criminal liability, we assist clients in making the critical decision of whether to seek a marker under Competition Bureau’s immunity or leniency policies, or to prepare to defend against an eventual prosecution. Whatever route is chosen, Osler can provide assistance from the initial inquiry through to the grant of immunity, negotiation of a leniency-based guilty plea or a full criminal trial.

Osler also has unsurpassed expertise in handling complex and highly sensitive internal investigations for major companies, special committees of independent directors and special litigation committees. Internal investigations often arise out of situations where clients are confronted with a range of legal and non-legal challenges including potential criminal prosecution, “dawn raids”, production order and other compliance issues, related civil litigation including class actions, complicated privilege issues, corporate governance concerns and media/public relations issues.

Over the past several years, Osler has represented either the target of an investigation or an immunity or leniency applicant in the following antitrust inquiries and investigations and/or in related civil proceedings:

  • financial services
  • air cargo 
  • Quebec retail gasoline
  • parcel tanker shipping
  • carbon & graphite products
  • forest protection products
  • compressors
  • construction industry bid-rigging
  • vitamins
  • lithium batteries
  • chocolate confectionery 
  • freight forwarding
  • high voltage cables
  • polyurethane foam
  • Internet and communications marketing
  • marine hose
  • auto parts 
  • liner shipping
  • DRAM, SRAM, Flash Memory, Optical Disc Drives, CRTs, LCDs & CRT Glass

With our considerable knowledge of criminal law procedure, evidence, and familiarity with Charter principles in the practice of criminal law, Osler has been successful in securing the termination of Bureau inquiries in several cases where we were able to argue successful potential defences as to corporate criminal liability, the principles of admissibility of evidence in relation to allegations of conspiracy, potential allegations of lost evidence, frailties in the Bureau’s analysis of the technical law applicable to bid-rigging, potential violations of the Charter related to the acquisition of documents and other evidence, and numerous other criminal law procedure and practice points.

Having acted for immunity or leniency applicants in several cases, we are also very familiar with the nature of immunity grants and the particular co-operation obligations imposed on immunity recipients, which can be of strategic assistance in addressing cases where Osler represents targeted entities.

Osler has deep experience in class action litigation and has worked with clients to develop and coordinate strategic responses to class action litigation, both in Canada and, in conjunction with foreign counsel, and in cross-border or international cases. We regularly represent our clients in their dealings with the Competition Bureau and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, as well as in any judicial proceedings.  Osler has had a strong record of success in deflecting antitrust probes as well as negotiating effective settlements.

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