ELECTRICITY : COURT REDUCES ALSTOM'S CARTEL FINE.
In assessing the role of leader in an infringement of competition law, it is necessary to weigh all the criteria, including the duration and intensity of that role of leader. According to the EU General Court, the European Commission overlooked this consideration in its decision concerning a cartel case in the field of gas-insulated switchgear (GIS). Thus, on 3 March, the court partially revoked the Commission's decision of 24 January, 2007, which condemned 20 companies for participation in this agreement after mistakenly evaluating the duration of Alstom and Areva's participation.
The court has thus reduced the fines levied on Alstom individually from 11,475,000 to 10,327,500, and said that Alstom and Areva's and their subsidiaries' joint and several liability should be reduced from 53,550,000 to 48,195,000.
The agreement lasted from 1988 to 2004 and hinged on the coordination at a global level of the award of GIS projects that were used to control the flow of energy in electricity grids through the fixing of prices in a way that squeezed out competitors that were not participating in the cartel. The Commission thus imposed fines totalling 750,712,500 on 20 companies. The subsidiaries of Areva, Alstom and Siemens took part in the agreement. The largest fine, 396,562,500, was imposed on Siemens Germany.
The other members of the cartel at the time comprised five individual companies, the parent of which was VA Technology AG. These companies argued that the Commission had poorly understood their respective responsibilities. The Luxembourg judges granted their request and, in ruling that the Commission had violated the general principle that the penalty must be specific to the offender and to the offence, redistributed the fines, taking into account the fact that the companies in question had continued to make retribution for their criminal behaviour for offences prior to the acquisition by Siemens Osterreich and their responsibility as subsidiary companies for the same group, either VA Tech Transmission or Siemens Osterreich.
Consequently, the court ruled that the fines be reimposed as follows:
- Siemens Transmission & Distribution SA (SEHV) and Magrini are jointly and severally liable with Schneider Electric SA for the amount of 8,100,000
- Siemens Transmission & Distribution Ltd (Reyrolle), Siemens AG Osterreich, KEG, Siemens Transmission & Distribution SA (SEHV) and Magrini are jointly and severally liable for the amount of 10,350,000.
- Siemens Transmission & Distribution Ltd (Reyrolle), Siemens AG Osterreich and KEG are jointly and severally liable for the amount of 2,250,000.
- Siemens Transmission & Distribution Ltd (Reyrolle) is liable for the amount of 9,450,000.
The court did not accept any of the arguments presented by Siemens Germany and maintained its fine at 396,562,500.