"Thank you for your co-operation": A practical perspective on managing dawn raids and regulatory investigations

Frank Govaerts and Paul Van Reesch, General Counsel, Coca Cola, Belgium

You can imagine the scenario: It’s Monday morning, 8:20am. The receptionists are just getting settled, and the few employees in the office are gathered around the coffee machine. All of a sudden, the front door bursts open and into reception burst a host of inspectors, with cries of “European Commission, nobody move…” Although this scene is more likely to occur in Hollywood than Brussels, dawn raids conducted by competition regulators have become a regular feature of the competition landscape, particularly with the focus of the European Commission on cartel-busting. But one should also keep in mind that it is not just the competition authorities that have the power to carry out unannounced inspections: regulatory supervision is increasing and businesses potentially face dawn raids from competition, financial and fraud regulators and investigators. A dawn raid is an unannounced inspection by a regulatory authority, carried out to secure evidence, in case of the European Commission, because the Commission suspects that the business being dawn raided has infringed European competition laws. During a dawn raid by competition authorities, the inspectors are generally entitled to review, read and copy any books and business records of the company that are within the scope of the investigation. The European Commission can also ask for on the spot explanations of documents and facts.

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Belgium Competition Retail October 2008 Vol. 2, No. 5, Autumn 2008

Frank Govaerts

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Frank Govaerts is the General Counsel of the European Group of Coca-Cola Enterprises European Group. Frank commenced his career as a teaching assistant in Economic Law at the Catholic University of Leuven in 1984 before moving into the pharmaceutical industry in 1987, where he spent six years as a Senior Legal Counsel with Johnson & Johnson. Frank joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1993 as Region Counsel for Benelux and Denmark and in 1996 moved to Coca-Cola Enterprises as Vice President Legal for the Benelux. After having been posted to the Corporate Headquarters of Coca-Cola Enterprises in Atlanta in 2001, Frank was appointed General Counsel of Coca-Cola Enterprises’ European Group in 2002. Paul van Reesch is a Senior Legal Counsel in the European Group of Coca-Cola Enterprises. Paul is a dual qualified Australian/English lawyer who joined the commercial legal team of Coca-Cola Enterprises in Great Britain in 2005 after working for several years in private practice in Australia. In 2007 Paul was appointed to the role of Senior Commercial Legal Counsel in Coca-Cola Enterprises’ European Group.

European Group of Coca-Cola Enterprises

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Coca-Cola Enterprises is both the world’s largest marketer, producer and distributor of nonalcoholic beverages and the world’s largest Coca-Cola bottler, representing approximately 18 percent of total Coca-Cola product volume worldwide, selling approximately 42 billion bottles and cans of products and serving a marketplace of approximately 414 million consumers throughout North America, the U.S. Virgin Islands, certain Caribbean islands, Great Britain, continental France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Monaco. Coca-Cola Enterprises was incorporated in Delaware, United States in 1944 by The Coca-Cola Company and has been a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange since 1986.

Belgium Competition Retail October 2008 Vol. 2, No. 5, Autumn 2008