The political orthodoxy that markets provide the best solutions has been surprisingly resilient.
In reality the government and the EU have a difficult relationship with market freedoms. They endorse freedoms, with the caveat that they would like to know exactly what people do with them. This is clear in the awkward compromises that surround civil claims arising from admitted cartels.
The ability of claimants to use information on a price-fixing cartel provided by whistleblowers would create a new level of risk for errant companies – a massive extra deterrent against wrongdoing, of the sort valued by the US.
Some in enforcement authorities are lured by the US way; it is a market-based tool that keeps corporate behaviour in check. Fighting against that is a very European reaction to the ‘US-style claims culture’.
So rules proposed by the EU last week, on access to whistle-blowing materials, are timid. Cash-strapped European governments and regulators could unleash such legal liabilities. But this market-based solution would remove the state and its agencies’ role in deciding which accommodations it reaches with businesses.
The suspicion is that European governments dislike the idea of not knowing which claimants will behave in what way – whereas part of any market’s power lies in such unpredictability.