On 12 November 2009, the ECJ dismissed appeals which had been brought by SGL Carbon AG and Le Carbone Lorraine against a judgment of the CFI (now General Court). The CFI had dismissed their appeal challenging the fines imposed by the Commission for a breach of Article 81(1) (now Article 101 TFEU), by participating in a cartel for electrical and mechanical carbon and graphite products. SGL Carbon was fined €23,640,000 and Le Carbone Lorraine was fined €43,050,000.
The ECJ rejected the pleas of both companies on the grounds that the CFI had not erred in law when calculating the basic amount of the fine; that the fines imposed were non-discriminatory and proportionate; that the fines were specific to the offender; that the Commission had properly taken into account the actual impact of the cartel on the market in question; and that it had treated all operators equally when granting leniency. Interestingly, Le Carbone Lorraine had sought to argue that the CFI breached the principles of equal treatment and proportionality by finding that it could not benefit from a reduction on account of serious financial difficulties in the same way that SGL Carbon could. The ECJ did not question the CFI’s finding that Le Carbone Lorraine had failed to show that it was in an equivalent situation to SGL Carbon in terms of its financial health. The objective differences in the situations of the two companies were found to justify their different treatment by the Commission.
12 November 2009