Schindler Should Lose Cartel Fine Appeal, EU Court Aide Says

Schindler Holding AG should lose a final appeal against a 143.7 million-euro ($187.5 million) cartel fine for colluding with competitors in the markets for elevators and escalators, an adviser to the European Union’s highest court said.

The appeal should be dismissed in its entirety, Advocate General Juliane Kokott of the EU Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion today. The Luxembourg-based court follows such advice in most cases.

The European Commission fined five companies 992.3 million euros in February 2007 for their roles in the elevator cartel. ThyssenKrupp AG two years ago won a first court appeal to slice 159.9 million euros off a 479.7 million-euro antitrust fine for carving up the markets for elevators and escalators.

Schindler is appealing a 2011 ruling by the EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, to uphold its penalty and is calling for a decision that overturns the EU regulator’s original order.

“At the time of the infringements Schindler Holding had –- as expressly acknowledged by the General Court –- done its utmost to prevent its subsidiaries from violating EU competition law through a state-of-the-art compliance program,” Barbara Schmidhauser, a spokeswoman for the company, said by e-mail. If the top EU court follows Kokott’s advice, the incentive to use such compliance programs “would be rather low.”

The elevator companies were accused of setting prices in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands between at least 1995 and 2004. They rigged contract bids, allocated projects to each other and shared confidential information, the commission said.

The case is: C-501/11 P, Schindler Holding Ltd., Schindler Management AG, Schindler SA, Schindler Sarl, Schindler Liften BV and Schindler Deutschland Holding GmbH v. European Commission.

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