June 13, 2013 / 12:17 AM / 5 years ago

Canada names John Pecman to head competition watchdog

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada on Wednesday named internal candidate John Pecman to head its Competition Bureau, nearly one year after he stepped in as interim head of the watchdog agency.

Pecman was named Commissioner of Competition for a five-year term.

The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency Set up to ensure fair competition in Canada. It is responsible for the enforcement of the Competition Act and investigates price fixing, bid-rigging and mergers, among other matters.

Last week, the bureau charged Nestle SA and Mars Inc with fixing chocolate prices in Canada.

It also won a dispute recently with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, forcing the bank to hand over key documents in a global rate-rigging scandal. And after a probe by the regulator, Japanese auto parts maker Yazaki Corp was fined C$30 million ($29.5 million) earlier this year for bid-rigging.

In March, the bureau approved telecommunications company BCE Inc’s C$3 billion takeover of Astral Media Inc after BCE agreed to divest more than a dozen channels and a few radio stations. The deal is still being reviewed by the country’s telecoms watchdog.

Under Pecman’s leadership, the Bureau recently unveiled a new initiative designed to encourage whistleblowers to come forward with information about potential violations of the Competition Act.

Subrata Bhattacharjee, co-chairman of the national trade and competition group at the Heenan Blaikie law firm in Toronto, views Pecman as a strong appointment.

“Given his background, long history within the bureau and some of the things he did as an acting commissioner, I would expect that he will continue to pursue vigorous enforcement, particularly in criminal cases, but also inject a more of a policy-driven approach than we have seen in recent years,” Bhattacharjee said.

Pecman has worked nearly 30 years at the bureau, spending time in every enforcement branch of the agency. He is also an economist with a masters degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Cal Goldman, the co-chairman of the Competition, Antitrust & Foreign Investment Group at Blakes in Toronto, said Pecman would enhance the understanding enforcement policy.

“He not only brings a wealth of case and policy experience to the bureau, but he is also taking an approach that involves increased transparency, increased predictability and greater consultation with stakeholders, which is a welcome approach,” said Goldman, the former head of the bureau, who has known Pecman for over two decades.

($1 = 1.0183 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Peter Galloway and Andre Grenon

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