John Pecman, the recently appointed Commissioner of Canada’s Competition Bureau, has announced a new Criminal Cartel Whistleblowing Initiative to encourage members of the public to provide information to the Competition Bureau about possible violations of sections 45 to 49 of the Competition Act. These provisions criminalise a wide range of cartel conduct including price fixing, allocation of markets, restricting outputs and bid rigging.
The new programme is in addition to the general protection for whistleblowers already provided for in Canadian legislation, and demonstrates the Competition Bureau’s increasing focus on tackling violations of the criminal cartel offence. The Competition Act provides that any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed (or intends to commit) an offence under the Act and notifies the Commission as such may request that their identity be kept confidential, and also prohibits employers from taking action against whistleblowers who act in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief. Canada’s Criminal Code provides a wider protection for anyone who provides information to law enforcement officers with respect to any kind of offence committed by someone in their organisation.
The details of the Criminal Cartel Whistleblowing Initiative show a high degree of protection for the identity of individuals who come forward, with an assurance that any information used to enforce the offence will not reveal the Whistleblower’s identity and a guarantee that while individuals may be asked to testify in court they will not be required to do so.
The Competition Bureau already has immunity and leniency programmes in place to encourage self-reporting, and Pecman said that the new initiative was designed to “support increased reporting of anti-competitive behaviour, while ensuring the protection of individuals who come forward with such information.”