Information exchanges between competitors from a competition law perspective – the problem of premature exchanges of sensitive information in the context of merger control (Gun Jumping)
Keywords:competition, information exchanges, cartel, mergers, Gun Jumping
The topic of information exchanges between competing undertakings is central to competition law. These are practices that enhance market transparency and, as such, can generate significant efficiencies. However, they can also give rise to serious competition concerns, often because they afford competitors the possibility of reaching focal points of coordination. The analysis of information exchanges has traditionally taken place in the context of the legal framework that prohibits cartels. This article reviews, at first, the approach taken in Europe by competition authorities and courts, firmly grounded in the Commission Guidelines and in the most recent case law of the European Court of Justice. After discussing the relevant legal framework and the main criteria for the assessment of information exchanges in detail, the article elaborates on the specific problem that premature exchanges of information between competitors can create in the context of a merger transaction. As the competitors that they are, at least until closing of the deal, it is essential that contracting parties ensure that their due diligence exercise and the planning of the integration of their businesses are carried out in a manner that is consistent with competition rules, avoiding behaviour that can be interpreted as gun-jumping or as a cartel practice and, as a consequence, financial penalties and judicial claims.