A cartel is a group of independent corporations or other entities that join together to fix prices, rig bids, allocate markets, or conduct other similar illegal activities. Cartel conduct is mainly subject to criminal penalties under United States antitrust laws, although there are some cartel conduct, such as monopolization, resale price maintenance, etc. are subject to civil penalties.
The Sherman Act and Clayton Acts are the two main laws regulating cartels. Although the Sherman Act set the maximum corporate fine as $100 million, there were 32 fines over this amount in the past decade (not include the ones that are just at $100 million). The Department of Justice (DOJ) relies on 18 U.S.C. § 3571(d) when seeking to impose higher fines. For example, DOJ has successfully obtained a fine of $500 million against F. Hoffman-La Roche for its price-rigging conduct in an international vitamin cartel.
[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]