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FMC and US Department of Justice ink MoU following Biden Executive Order

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Within a day after the White House’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which included liner shipping among many industries to be examined, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) paving the way for cooperation between the two.

The significance of the MoU is that unlike the FMC, the DOJ has the power to bring criminal charges, and to prosecute alleged offenders of anti-competition rules. The Executive Order was particularly seen as targeting issues experienced by shippers around detention and demurrage.

The DOJ’s Acting Assistant Attorney General, Richard A. Powers, said: “Collaboration between the Antitrust Division and the FMC is important to ensuring healthy competition in the maritime industry.

 “Our partnership with the FMC is one of the many ways in which the Antitrust Division is prepared to play its role in achieving the competition objectives of the President’s Competition Executive Order.” 

At the FMC, its Chairman, Daniel Maffei, commented: ““The Federal Maritime Commission has an important enforcement role as an economic regulator of a vital industry.”

He added that, “As such, we will continually assess how the agency can improve its capacity to protect the integrity of the marketplace. This memorandum between the Commission and the Department of Justice supplements and strengthens the FMC’s ability to detect, address, and pursue violations of the law or anticompetitive behavior by those we regulate.”

As explained by the DOJ, “In particular, the MoU establishes a framework for the Antitrust Division and the FMC to continue regular discussions and review law enforcement and regulatory matters affecting competition in the maritime industry.”

The DOJ noted also that the MoU sets up a framework for actual meetings and spells out the types of information that can be exchanged.