On November 12, 2008, the European Commission (“EC”) imposed a €1.3 billion criminal fine on four car companies, Asahi, Pilkington, Saint-Gobain, and Soliver for their role in illegal market sharing and participating in the exchange of commercial sensitive information. These practices are prohibited under the Commission EC Treaty’s and the European Economic Area Agreement’s ban on cartels.
Specifically, the four car companies held regular discussions where commercially sensitive information was shared and tenders for the supply of car glass were allocated in an attempt to maintain each company’s current market share as stable as possible. These illegal practices took place between 1998 and early 2003.
The investigation was termed as an “own initiative” case by the EC, as the EC received an anonymous tip and conducted surprise inspections in 2005.
This fine was the highest imposed on a cartel to date. Being a repeat offender, Saint-Gobain’s fine could have increased by 200%. However, in light of the fact that offense occurred 20 years ago, Saint-Gobain’s fine increased only by 60%. Asahi received a 50% reduction in under the EC’s Leniency Notice for cooperating with authorities by providing additional information after the surprise inspections.