On October 15, 2008 the EC determined that between 2000 and 2002 Chiquita, Dole, and Weichert participated in a cartel to fix the reference prices of bananas imported into eight EU Member States: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Sweden. In 2002 consumers in these eight nations purchased 1.6 million metric tons of bananas, worth roughly €2.5 billion.
The EC initiated an investigation in April 2005 following Chiquita’s application for immunity under the EC’s leniency program. According to the EC, the three banana importers participated in telephone communications, during which they discussed or disclosed their pricing intentions. These conversations often occurred the day before these companies announced their weekly price quotations.
Chiquita’s compliance with the terms of the leniency program resulted in full immunity from what would have been €83.2 million in fines. Dole and Weichert each received a 60-percent reduction in fines due to certain market circumstances during the time period, such as the specific regulatory regime governing the banana market. Weichert received an additional reduction of 10 percent for not participating in part of the cartel. The fines actually imposed by the EC on Dole and Weichert amounted to €45.6 million and €14.7 million, respectively. Moreover, because Del Monte controlled Weichert during the period of the anticompetitive conduct, it was held jointly and severally liable for the payment of Weichert’s €14.7 million fine.