On Friday, April 4, 2014, the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division (“DOJ”) announced that, for the first time ever, the DOJ successfully extradited “an alleged price-fixer” on an antitrust charge.i Romano Pisciotti, a 62 year old Italian national traveling through Germany, is the first foreign national to have been handed to United States authorities on the basis of alleged cartel involvement. This successful extradition highlights the increased threat of extradition for foreign nationals who decline to voluntarily appear in the United States to face cartel charges.
In 2010, Mr. Pisciotti was indicted,ii and his employer Parker ITR S.r.l pleaded guilty,iii to a conspiracy to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate market shares of marine hose sold in the United States and elsewhere. The indictment against Mr. Pisciotti alleges that he participated in the conspiracy from at least 1999 until 2006. Until earlier this month, Mr. Pisciotti had not made an appearance in a United States court. In June 2013, while under indictment, Mr. Pisciotti was arrested in Germany, from where he was ultimately extradited to the United States. On April 4, 2014, Mr. Pisciotti made his initial appearance in the United States District Court in the Southern District of Florida.
For a foreign national to be extradited from Germany to the United States, the offense must constitute an illegal act according to the laws of both countries.iv The laws of both countries, however, do not need to be identical; substantially similar or analogous laws generally suffice.v In Germany, bid-rigging in the context of public bids is a criminal offense, while price-fixing and market sharing do not carry criminal liability.vi The indictment against Mr. Pisciotti alleges that he submitted bids to the United States Department of Defense in accordance with agreements with competitors, in addition to engaging in price-fixing and market allocation.vii
Mr. Pisciotti has not given up on opposing the decision of the German court that granted his extradition. Mr. Pisciotti has petitioned, and the European Commission is “currently examining,” whether Germany discriminated against Mr. Pisciotti based on his Italian nationality.viii Meanwhile, Mr. Pisciotti is scheduled to enter a plea in the United States on April 24.
Up until Mr. Pisciotti’s extradition, Ian Norris was the only foreign individual ever to be extradited and stand trial in the United States in connection with a criminal antitrust investigation.ix However, because the “dual criminality” requirement between the U.K. and the United States was not met at the time of the alleged conduct, the DOJ Antitrust Division was unable to prosecute Norris on the underlying price-fixing charges. Instead, the UK extradited Norris to the United States on obstruction charges.
Heightened Threat of Extradition
The DOJ Antitrust Division’s first success in extraditing a suspect on an antitrust charge may result in the Division seeking the extradition of other foreign nationals suspected of criminal antitrust activity. The Division’s actions demonstrate renewed willingness to pursue antitrust violators abroad, and to encourage other suspected cartelists to cooperate with United States authorities and enter into plea deals. Furthermore, in light of the case of Mr. Pisciotti, it remains to be seen whether foreign authorities such as Japan will be more willing to exercise their discretion in favor of increased extradition of executives that are the subject of United States-based antitrust prosecutions.
i See Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, First Ever Extradition on Antitrust Charge (April 4, 2014).
ii See Indictment, United States v. Romano Pisciotti, No. 10 CR 60232 (S.D.F.L. 2010).
iii See Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, Italian Subsidiary of U.S.-Based Company Agrees to Plead Guilty for Participating in International Price-Fixing Conspiracy (Feb. 16, 2010).
iv See Extradition Treaty Between the United States and Germany, 32 U.S.T 1485, T.I.A.S. 9785, 1220 U.N.T.S. 269, Supp. Treaty, March 11, 1993.
v See generally 35 C.J.S. Extradition and Detainers § 44 (2007); 31A Am. Jur. 2d Extradition § 40 (2007).
vi See Strafgesetzbuch (or the German Criminal Code), Section 298, Restricting competition through agreements in the context of public bids.
vii See supra note ii.
viii See European Parliament, Questions and Declarations, Answer given by Mrs. Reding on behalf of the Commission, last updated Mar. 17, 2014, available at: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2013-014391&language=EN.
ix See United States v. Norris, 722 F. Supp. 2d 632 (E.D. Pa. 2010).