This is an interesting read on the Herbert Smith Freehills blog. It seems that regulators - or at least some of them - seem to getting back to their normal pre-covid activities. As the piece states; “it appears that the success of vaccination programmes across Europe and the gradual easing of restrictions have created conditions where dawn raids can be safely resumed.”
From our perspective, raids will always involve a lot of data and companies should ensure they engage, not just lawyers to assist with the raids, but also experienced forensic technology professionals too.
These forensic professionals can help to do two things
a) Ensures that the regulatory authorities are monitored to ensure that they are only accessing the documents and data that they are allowed to under the terms of the order. And also allows the client to gain insights from the work they are doing (e.g., searches, areas of focus);
b) Puts them in a good position to do their own work immediately after the regulators are finished. This will put them in the best possible position with regulators when considering leniency applications or defensive strategies – based on real documents and data.
Equally, companies should consider conducting mock dawn raids too, again with appropriate legal and forensic technology support. Whilst these may sound extreme, they can help ensure that practices and procedures are road-tested. This level of preparation is essential. Not only this, but role playing the scenario like this means the process can be fine-tuned and adapted to ensure best practice should the worst happen.
As the piece states, “Companies should take note that a step-change in enforcement activity is very likely, with a wave of new cartel investigations set to take place across Europe in the months to come.” Never has there been a more important the time to be prepared.
On 22 June 2021 the European Commission ("Commission") revealed that it had carried out surprise inspections at the German premises of a company active in the clothing sector, suspected of infringing competition rules. This was the first unannounced inspection, or "dawn raid", conducted by the Commission since the COVID-19 pandemic first struck Europe in March 2020. Many national competition agencies across Europe have also recently re-commenced dawn raids or else signalled their determination to do so. Companies should take note that a step-change in enforcement activity is very likely, with a wave of new cartel investigations set to take place across Europe in the months to come.