On 27 November 2014, the General Court ("GC") annulled the Commission’s 2009 decision in so far as it held Alstom to be jointly and severally liable for the payment of the fine imposed on its wholly owned subsidiary, Areva T&D, for its participation in the power-transformer cartel.
On October 2009, the Commission adopted a cartel decision against several companies, including Areva T&D, for dividing the European and Japanese power transformer market by means of a verbal "gentlemen’s agreement". Since Areva T&D was at the time of the infringement wholly owned by Alstom, the Commission held the latter jointly and severally liable for the infringement committed by its subsidiary.
The GC recognized that, according to established case law, the conduct of a subsidiary may be imputed to the parent company where it is found that the subsidiary does not decide independently upon its own conduct on the market, but carries out the instructions given to it by the parent company. In the specific situation where the parent company has a 100% shareholding of its subsidiary there is a rebuttable presumption that the parent company does in fact exercise such a decisive influence over the conduct of its subsidiary.
According to the GC, Alstom brought forward elements specifically aiming to prove that, during the given period, its subsidiary had acted independently on the market, but that the Commission had failed however to properly explain why those elements were not sufficient to rebut the presumption. The GC recalled that, even if the Commission considers that the evidence adduced by Alstom is insufficient to rebut the presumption, it is still obliged to state reasons for its decision on this issue.