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Seeking short-term solutions to financial or market problems by
agreeing with competitors to share customers, allocate territories
or apply certain price levels can be tempting, particularly during
hard times. Rival marketing and sales executives will meet at
seasonal industry events and may be tempted to share strategies or
to reach an understanding about future conduct.
In the late 1980s many of the leading producers of vitamins
participated in a cartel to fix their prices in response to a drop
in prices worldwide. Similar behaviour has also been seen in the
citric acid industry in response to a rapid price decline, and
producers of graphite electrodes formed a cartel after a decline in
consumption. The airline sector has also been awash with
investigations into admitted and alleged cartel activity in recent
years, centred around secret so-called ‘coffee meetings’.
The penal risks of cartel behaviour, even in response to
difficult economic times, are extremely high and companies need top
quality legal assistance in managing such risks and defending
effectively any litigation.
If you have or may have been involved in a cartel, the risks to
your business are severe. Our priority is to protect you and to
enable you to focus on developing your business.
Protecting you in such circumstances requires a relationship of
trust. This is the cornerstone of ensuring that the risk to the
business is properly assessed and appropriate remedial action is
taken. That is why we invest so much in fostering strong working
relationships with you.
We offer advice about the risks and consequences of price-fixing
or cartel behaviour to provide practical, commercial solutions.
We have extensive experience in protecting you wherever and
however you may feel threatened by a cartel: where you have been or
may have been involved in a cartel, when you are worried about
trends or features in your markets or where your suppliers,
competitors or customers may have been involved in a cartel. In
particular, we have the depth of experience to:
- carry out compliance audits to identify risk factors
- co-ordinate multi-jurisdiction action
- provide a robust defence, or an aggressive attack
- take swift action, with a long-term vision
- protect individuals
- We successfully advised Japanese air carrier All Nippon
Airways in a European Commission investigation into its
alleged involvement in an air freight cartel.
The investigation involved 25 airlines including British Airways,
Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Cathay Pacific. In what has been
described as one of the largest cartel cases ever handled by the
Commission, 13 of those investigated were found culpable with
penalties ranging from zero for the immunity applicant, to €182.9
millions for Air France. The Commission fined airlines a total of
The global price-fixing cartel involved fuel surcharges and
security surcharges. ANA was cleared of involvement and was not
fined by the Commission.
- We are advising a Japanese auto parts manufacturer on its
involvement in a cartel case which is being investigated in the
USA, Europe and Japan. Dawn raids have already taken place.
- We recently advised a Japanese company on a request for
information sent by the European Commission in connection with
suspected anti-competitive behaviour. Our team of 40 lawyers and
paralegals in London, Brussels, Hamburg and Paris carried out a
swift and comprehensive review of more than two million documents
so that we could advise quickly on antitrust risk including