Largest Cartel Fine by the EU Commission

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The EU Commission imposed fines on producers of TV and computer monitor tubes a total of € 1.47 billion for two decade-long cartels that operated worldwide (The press release is available here). Members of cartels include major firms like Philips, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Toshiba. Chunghwa from Taiwan got immunity as the first leniency applicant.

These cartels were described by the Commissioner Almunia as the “textbook cartels” since they featured all the worst kinds of anticompetitive behaviour. They also used the most advanced methods to conceal the illegal practices such as price-fixing, market sharing, customer allocation, and exchanges of sensitive commercial information.

They were also regarded as one of the most organised cartels since they arranged top management level meetings, disguised as “green(s) meetings” by the cartelists themselves because they were often followed by a golf game, in order to coordinate two different cartels.

And an interesting excerpt from the report by New York Times (available here):

“One of the “greens meetings” took place at the Palm Garden Golf Club and was followed by a “Top Management” meeting in the Terengganu room of a Marriott Hotel, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who asked not to be named because of the legal sensitivity of the case. The person gave no further details about the location or the meeting. But those details suggested that the conspirators played and ate during the day at a luxury golfing resort near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur that is equipped with a driving range, infinity-edge swimming pool and tennis courts.”

As the report suggests, the surrounding of a cartel meeting seemed not to change considerably as it ended in a smoke-filled hotel room although it was preceded by a beautiful day at a scenery possibly like the following one.

infinity pool

These cartels also used Mission Impossible style expressions like “This tape will self-destruct in ten seconds”. Although they did not invent a self-destructive notes, it is usual for members of cartels to use warnings like “Please dispose the following document after reading it”.

Lastly, there had been “serious harm” to producers and to consumers which means that a number of sizable follow-on damages actions can be on their way considering the cartelised products account for up to 70% of a final product.

Indeed, the largest cartel fine imposed by the EU Commission will direct us to look more closely into the records of the TCA in the forthcoming posts. However, we do not dare to make any comparison with the EU jurisdiction…

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