'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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