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Eni’s EU Rubber Cartel Fine Cut by 20% to $138.8 Million

Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company, was granted a 20 percent cut in a European Union fine for colluding on prices of a synthetic rubber used to make diving equipment, shoe soles and condoms.

The EU General Court in Luxembourg reduced the company’s fine to 106.2 million euros ($138.8 million) from 132.2 million euros in a ruling today. The legal reasoning was kept confidential at the parties’ request.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, in December 2007 levied a total of 247.6 million euros on Eni and four competitors for carving up the market for chloroprene rubber, which is used to make latex rubber. The illegal cartel lasted from at least 1993 to 2002. Eni got the biggest fine for being a repeat offender.

German drugmaker Bayer AG was given full immunity from a 201 million euro fine in the case because it told the Brussels-based commission about the cartel. The EU court in separate rulings in February rejected appeals by DuPont Co., Dow Chemical Co., and Denki Kagaku Kogyo KK against their fines in the cartel. DuPont and Dow have since appealed to the EU’s top court.

DuPont was fined 15 million euros and Dow 4.4 million euros individually. In addition, they got a joint penalty of 44.3 million euros for their former joint venture. Dow Chemical transferred its stake in the joint venture to Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont in 2005 and it was renamed DuPont Performance Elastomers LLC.

The commission didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment on today’s decision.

The case is: T-103/08, Versalis and Eni v. Commission.

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