2020 Energy and Chemicals Antitrust Report
Antitrust activity in the energy and chemical sectors was steady and robust in 2020. Even though U.S. antitrust agencies witnessed the first year-over-year drop in total merger activity since 2012, the agencies investigated more transactions in the energy and chemical industries than in 2019. The FTC secured divestitures in two cases and challenged two transactions in federal court — succeeding in one and losing in the other. The DOJ and FTC published new Vertical Merger Guidelines clarifying the agencies’ approach to vertical transactions.
DOJ brought no merger enforcement actions last year, but continued its work on the criminal front. DOJ obtained an additional settlement in its investigation into Korean fuel supply contracts and secured a guilty plea in a joint investigation into collusion affecting bids related to the Department of Energy’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Still, the overall number of new criminal antitrust cases publicly filed by the DOJ in 2020 remains below historical levels.
Congress reauthorized ACPERA, a statute that provides incentives in civil actions to companies that self-report anticompetitive conduct under the Antitrust Division’s Corporate Leniency program.
State and private antitrust litigation in the U.S. energy and chemical industries remained active. Notably, the State of California and retail gasoline purchasers launched new suits against major traders of gasoline and gasoline blending components, accusing them of colluding to manipulate the spot market price of gasoline in violation of federal and state antitrust laws.
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