On August 8, 2019, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (“SIC”) imposed the highest-ever fine due to an obstruction of an investigation during a dawn raid. Under Colombian law, the SIC has the power to conduct unannounced dawn raids on the premises of any company and request information, take forensic copies of hard drives and files stored in corporate computers, and interrogate employees. Refusing to supply information or in any way obstruct the investigation is a stand-alone violation of antitrust law subject to fines of up to 100,000 minimum monthly wages (currently, COP$82,811,600,000, c. US$28 million). However, higher fines are reserved for grave violations of antitrust law –namely cartels and abuses of dominance- with obstruction fines well below this threshold.
In this case, the SIC investigated the conduct deployed by Uber Colombia during a dawn raid that took place on October 13, 2017. According to the SIC’s decision, the company had a corporate policy on dawn raids that instructed employees not to provide information on the business, refuse from granting access to computers, and refrain from identifying an individual in charge of the procedure. Acting pursuant to these policies, employees refused from handing the information requested by the SIC, and blocked the access to corporate computers to prevent any information from being copied.
Additionally, the SIC found that 3 employees from Uber Colombia (two from the legal department and the local office manager) lied or gave misleading information to the officers from the SIC during their interrogation, effectively obstructing the investigation.
The fine imposed to Uber Colombia amounted to COP$2,128,258,120 (approximately US$620,000) and the ones imposed to the employees were between COP$5,000,000 and COP$25,000,000 (approximately US$1,450 – US$7,300).
These fines send a clear message to all companies and undertakings –and to their employees- regarding behavior during dawn raids. It is key that companies and individuals are aware of the powers of the SIC and its procedures regarding dawn raids, as well as implementing corporate guidelines and policies that prepare personnel in case the SIC knocks on the door.
The press release from the SIC is available, in Spanish