Japan Antitrust Watchdog to Hire 21 Lawyers to Boost Investigations into IT Giants

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Fair Trade Commission / The Public Prosecutors Office. in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2022.

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) plans to hire 21 experienced lawyers from the private sector to strengthen its oversight of IT giants, whose global market dominance is seen as problematic.

The JFTC began recruiting the lawyers last month. According to the commission, it is the first time for it to hire than 20 lawyers at one time.

As the big tech firms continue to tighten their grip on global markets, the JFTC’s system for executing the Antimonopoly Law has been criticized as lacking, prompting the commission to boost its monitoring powers by increasing the number of its specialized personnel.

About seven of the new hires will be involved in tasks related to the IT firms, such as investigating cases of antitrust violations in a division that specializes in big tech companies, and examining corporate acquisitions to ensure that they do not hinder fair competition.

The antitrust watchdog will also reinforce its investigative structure to deal with conventional cases — such as bid rigging and cartels — by assigning eight lawyers to relevant tasks.

The appointment period will be two years in principle, though this may be extended up to a total of five years. The lawyers are expected to serve as assistant section chiefs or sub-section chiefs and their annual salaries will range approximately from ¥9 million to ¥10 million. The base salary is said to be higher than that of other staff members in similar positions.

With their massive financial clout, IT giants are often staffed with powerful legal teams, groups of economists and other financial experts. One IT giant reportedly used a team of about 10 lawyers and a prominent economist to underline the validity of its claims when the JFTC investigated the firm’s questionable acts.

An official of JFTC’s Personnel Division said, “Areas related to antitrust law have been expanding, and there’s a limit to the number of knowledgeable staffers we can foster on our own, which is why it’s become necessary to supplement our staff with specialized personnel.”