U.S., Korea Antitrust Enforcers on Watch for Bid-Rigging in USFK Defense Contracts

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South Korean and U.S. antitrust regulators are joining forces, increasing the odds South Korean companies doing business with the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) will fall under investigation. Our global antitrust team, based in Seoul and around the world, unpacks the dangers in their latest client alert.

Two of the world’s most active antitrust regulators, South Korea and the United States, are increasingly collaborating closely in cross-border matters. Recent pledges by the Biden administration to “vigorously” enforce antitrust violations have increased the odds of joint U.S.-Korean investigations into bid-rigging and other anticompetitive behavior for South Korean companies that conduct business with the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

These joint actions bring antitrust enforcement in Korea to a new scale, and Korean targets and their counsel will need to quickly adopt an aggressive, multi-jurisdictional defense.

U.S. Executive Order Signals “Vigorous” Antitrust Enforcement in Key Markets

An Executive Order signed by U.S. President Biden in July 2021 ushered in an era of vigorous antitrust enforcement, setting competition-law priorities for regulators such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that will likely bear global implications beyond U.S. national borders.

Among the numerous key industries called out in the Order is the defense industry. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been directed to conduct a review of the state of competition within the U.S. defense industrial base and make recommendations on how to improve the solicitation process within 180 days of the Order’s signing, or early January 2022. This will likely put defense contractors operating in key markets around the world, such as Korea, under the microscope with regards to their solicitation practices and processes.

U.S. and Korean antitrust enforcement collaboration on the rise.

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