Whistleblowers would get more protections for reporting criminal antitrust violations to the Department of Justice under new legislation introduced Tuesday by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa ), the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act would provide a civil remedy for those who are retaliated against for reporting violations such as price fixing, market allocation and bid rigging, which can result in reduced competition and more overcharges for businesses and consumers.
The bipartisan bill is based on the results of the General Accountability Office's 2011 study on enforcing antitrust laws, where antitrust attorneys and law professors broadly supported the addition of that remedy because it would motivate more people to come forward with evidence.
Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the courage of whistleblowers in private companies will help make certain antitrust laws are enforced. Currently, antitrust whistleblowers have no means to pursue reinstatement at their job or monetary damages.
"Congress must encourage employees with reasonable beliefs about criminal activity to report it by offering meaningful protection to those who blow the whistle rather than leaving them vulnerable to reprisals," Leahy said.
The DOJ's Antitrust Division, the enforcer of antitrust laws, has relied heavily upon a leniency program to help the agency uncover and prosecute illegal cartel activity, according to the GAO report. Under that current leniency program, the first individual or company that reports its involvement in a criminal antitrust conspiracy to the Antitrust Division will avoid criminal conviction, fines, and prison sentences.
The bill introduced Tuesday does not propose a rewards program for whistleblowers, which DOJ officials said could jeopardize witness credibility in criminal cases and could undermine companies' internal compliance programs.