ERJ staff report (DS)
Brussels -- The European Commission has fined producers of chloroprene rubber € 243.2 million for market sharing and price fixing. This was reduced from over €460 million by leniancy clauses.
Bayer, Denka, DuPont, Dow, ENI and Tosoh groups have been fined a total of € 243 210 000 for participating in a cartel for chloroprene rubber in the European Economic Area (EEA) in violation of the EC Treaty's ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 81).Â
Bayer (now Lanxess) escaped a huge €201 million fine because it blew the whistle on the other participants in the cartel and thus was awarded 100 percent reduction under the leniancy notice. The €201 million was increased by a factor of 60 percent from a nominal €125 million because Bayer has already been found guilty of participating in previous cartel activities.
ENI was hit by the biggest fine: €132 million which includes a 50 percent penalty because ENI has suffered previous fines for anti-competitive activities, notably in EPDM.
Du Pont was hit with a €59.25 million fine, reduced from almost €80 million thanks to DuPont's cooperation. Dow Chemical, Du Pont's former partner in the DuPont-Dow Elastomers activity will have to pay €48.7 million of the fine, leaving DuPont with a relatively small fine of €10.625 million. The company earlier said it has increased reserves to cover the EU fines to $65 million (€45 million), of which it expected to recover up to $13 million from its former DPDE partner, Dow Chemical.
Denka in Japan was fined €47 million, which was neither increased due to previous offences, nor reduced on the grounds of leniancy.
Tosoh of Japan suffered a €4.8 million fine. This was reduced by 50 percent due to the EC leniancy clause.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: â€œIt is particularly disappointing that the rubber industry has still not learned its lessons about avoiding cartels. I find it very difficult to understand how shareholders and board members can tolerate such illegal behaviour".
The Commission said, "From at least 1993 to 2002, the producers of chloroprene rubber operated a cartel in which they agreed each other's market shares and set prices. The companies held regular meetings to discuss prices, exchange sensitive commercial information, discuss specific clients and to follow-up the implementation of their illegal agreements."
The Commission investigation started with surprise inspections in March and July 2003, prompted by an application for immunity lodged by Bayer under the 2002 Leniency Notice (see IP/02/247 and MEMO/02/23).
In a final comment, the EC invites anyone who may have suffered because of the cartel to sue the participating companies for damages. "Any person or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages, submitting elements of the published decision as evidence that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without these being reduced on account of the Commission fine."
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Press release from European Commission