Antitrust enforcers at the U.S. Department of Justice collected a whopping $1 billion in criminal fines in fiscal year 2009, an increase of 48 percent over 2008, reports the National Law Journal. An analysis by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher said the majority of the fines came in the first half of the fiscal year — well before Obama administration antitrust chief Christine Varney was confirmed in April 2009.
Gibson Dunn partner David Burns said the “tremendous line of astronomical fines is likely to continue. There’s the potential for a record-breaking year in 2010.” Last year, the heftiest fines came in connection with an investigation into price fixing of TFT-LCD flat panels, which are used in television sets and computer monitors. Prison sentences also remained lengthy, although the average sentence of 24 months in 2009 was slightly below the last two years.