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Competition Bureau Signs Enforcement Framework with Counterparts in the U.S., UK, Australia and New Zealand

On September 2, 2020, the Competition Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the UK Competition & Markets Authority, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission and the New Zealand Commerce Commission signed the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities, which is a memorandum of understanding that sets out the framework for cooperation between these agencies. The competition agencies of these Five Eyes countries already regularly cooperate with each other, and this framework is the latest step in deepening that cooperation. This is also part of a broader trend of increasing coordination between competition agencies around the globe.

Most significantly, the framework contemplates that these competition agencies will coordinate their investigative activities and share information, including confidential information, to the extent permitted by law or confidentiality waivers. The framework also contains a model agreement that can be signed by two or more of the agencies, which provides for enhanced cooperation and the protocol for doing so. Under the model agreement, the type of assistance contemplated includes taking testimony and statements from persons of interest, obtaining documentary productions and executing searches and seizures. As such, a competition agency may be able to, in essence, seek to utilize its foreign counterparties’ powers, to the extent permitted by law.

Finally, this framework is a reminder that, when facing competition issues, it is important to consider any international implications and retain counsel that are adept at managing such complexities.