Japan ushers in year of the whistleblower

Foreign law firms in Japan are gearing up for a wave of new competition work following the introduction of new anti-monopoly laws.

The revised laws, similar to those in the US, have been brought in to expose cartels and include an offer of immunity to the first company in a cartel to own up.

It is the first time in 28 years anti-monopoly laws have been changed in Japan, with some senior corporate lawyers branding 2006 “the year of the whistleblower”.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Kazuki Okada told The Lawyer the firm was about to boost its corporate team in preparation for the work likely to arise from the revised laws.

He said the new laws would most likely lead to a blowout in the number of cartel cases being referred to the Fair Trade Commission.

“We think it will lead to more competition work,” he said. “But this will most likely be done by corporate lawyers. We also expect an increase in the volume of shareholder litigation.”

A number of sources said the construction industry would feel the biggest impact from the revised laws.