Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has won a successful case against a European Commission (Commission) decision finding that it was the ringleader of a cartel in the citric acid market. In 2001, the Commission imposed fines on five undertakings for their participation in a cartel on the citric acid market: ADM, Hoffmann-La Roche, Haarmann & Reimer, Jungbunzlauer and Cerestar Bioproducts. The companies were found to have operated a worldwide cartel, meeting regularly to fix prices, exchange consumer information, eliminate price discounts and prevent imports. ADM had its fine increased by 35% to €39.69 on the basis of a Commission finding that it had acted as the leader of the cartel and its representative went by the nickname "The Wise Old Man". ADM took an initial appeal before the Court of First Instance (CFI) which, in its Judgement of 27 September 2006, dismissed ADM's action in part. ADM sought review of the CFI's Judgement and on 9 July 2009 (Case C-511/06P) the European Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld ADM's objections that the evidence relied upon by the Commission in finding that it had been the ringleader had merely been annexed to the Statement of Objections without reference to its significance. The ECJ did not comment on the evidence itself, what it found was that ADM's rights of defence had been breached because it was not given a proper opportunity to refute the claim. The ECJ held that the Commission was not entitled to rely upon the evidence and reduced the fine by 10%.
The Commission can increase fines for "ringleaders", or those who initiate or run the cartel. Furthermore, ringleaders will not receive full immunity from fines, even if they are the leniency applicant.