Imagine a windowless room in Brussels where hordes of junior lawyers sit and quietly (but clearly) dictate statements into a microphone.
Such was the way that companies seeking leniency or immunity in a cartel investigation were forced to supply information to the European Commission in order to protect confidentiality and prevent disclosure in civil litigation. While the potential discount from fines can be significant (€1.2 billion in one recent case), these generally pale in comparison to the risk of follow-on actions (where plaintiffs can be entitled to treble damages).
All that changed this month when the Commission launched its new eLeniency tool for submitting these statements, which provide the same legal protections as the analog method. Because it is online, the tool can be accessed from anywhere in the world, saving crucial time and money (in the race for immunity, minutes can mean millions).
Technology is key in reducing the exorbitant cost to companies in defending themselves in antitrust investigations. Artificial intelligence, for example, has dramatically reduced how many documents need to be reviewed by human eyes for the purposes of e-disclosure.
We have found some kinks using this portal in practice but once ironed out, this new tool should also relieve the Commission's workload and encourage more parties to come forward.
Corporate statements under the Leniency Notice that are made via eLeniency are protected against discovery in civil litigation, in the same way as oral submissions.