FTC redoubles efforts to crack down on corporate crime

Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images

Consumer protection is at the heart of the agency’s new program

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to see if it can take a larger bite out of corporate crime. The agency announced Friday that it will expand its criminal referral program and intensify its commitment towards combating misconduct it uncovers in its antitrust and consumer protection investigations.

The FTC says the new program should also allow it to speed up the process of enforcing those efforts, giving local, state, federal, and international agencies the wherewithal to bring criminals to justice sooner.

“At a time when major corporate lawbreakers can treat civil fines as a cost of doing business, government authorities must ensure that criminal conduct is followed by criminal punishment,” FTC Chair Lina M. Khan said in an announcement.

What consumers can expect from the new program

Some of the consumer protection misconduct and antitrust violations the agency wants to hone in on include price-fixing and market allocation deals. Stopping bid-rigging dead in its tracks -- like Pilgrim’s Pride was accused of last year -- is also high on the FTC’s list.

The agency will also be looking to ensure that lower-priced generic drugs are given a fair chance of making it to market. In one notable example, the agency charged Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior of using a deceptive scheme to impede lower-priced generic competition to their branded opioid addiction treatment, suboxone. The case ultimately resulted in a $1.4 billion settlement with Reckitt, guilty pleas from former Indivior executives and an Indivior subsidiary, and a civil settlement with Indivior.

The agency’s new policy allows it to use several methods to improve its cooperation with its law enforcement partners. Some of those include:

  • Publicly reporting on criminal referral efforts on a regular basis to help reinforce the public’s understanding of how important the agency’s work is, and also to highlight the criminal prosecutions it’s taken on;

  • Creating guidelines to ensure criminal law violations — particularly by major corporations and their executives — are identified by staff and promptly referred to criminal law enforcement agencies; and

  • Holding regular meetings with federal, state, and local criminal authorities to facilitate the coordination that will enable the appropriate law enforcement partners to take up cases referred by the FTC and develop best practices to enhance this coordination.

“Today the FTC is redoubling its commitment and improving its processes to expeditiously refer criminal behavior to criminal authorities, promoting accountability and deterrence,” Khan said.

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