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EU Court upholds graphite cartel fines

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The European Court of Justice has maintained  the fines, totaling €101.4 million, originally imposed by the European Commission on some of Europe's top industrial groups for their role in a cartel that fixed the price of carbon based products.

The cartel, fronted by SGL Carbon and Le Carbone-Lorraine, consisted of fixing sales prices and other trading conditions applicable to customers. The cartel also involved the sharing and manipulating of markets, in particular by allocating customers, and engaging in coordinated actions against those competitors which were not members of the cartel,  and who wished to establish market entry. Down to these illegal practices, the oligopoly had control of approximately 90% of the European market for carbon and graphite utilities.

Following an unsuccessful first appeal in 2008, Le Carbone-Lorraine and SGL Carbon brought a second round of appeals before the Court of Justice on the 12 Decemeber 2009, seeking to have the amount of the fines imposed reduced.

The Court of Justice rejected the arguments submitted by Le Carbone-Lorraine on firm grounds, stating that in 2008 the Court of first Instance, "Confirmed, rightly the findings on the cartel's impact and the gravity of the infringement of competition rules."

The first rulings, in 2003, saw record fines imposed on the industrial oligopoly. The fines for Le Carbone-Lorraine (€43.05m) and SGL Carbon (€23.64m) were the highest because of their leading roles in the cartel.

The European Court of Justice confirmed the validity of the Court's original  decision both in relation to the apportionment of liability and the setting of the amount of the fines.

European Court of Justice - Judgement and Application - full texts

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