Eni Loses EU Top Court Challenge of Rubber-Cartel Fine Order

Eni SpA lost its appeal at the European Union’s highest court against EU fines for colluding with rivals to fix prices of synthetic rubber.

The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg today rejected Eni’s appeal and arguments that as a parent company it shouldn’t have been held liable for the behavior of two subsidiaries. A parent can be held liable especially where its unit “does not autonomously determine its conduct on the market but mostly applies the instructions given to it by the parent company,” the court ruled.

The European Commission in 2006 fined five companies 519 million euros ($681.6 million) for rigging prices of synthetic rubber in a cartel that lasted from at least 1996 to 2002. Bayer AG escaped a fine after it tipped off the EU about the cartel. A lower EU court in 2011 reduced the 272.2 million-euro fine against Eni to 181.5 million euros. The EU top court today upheld that ruling.

“Since the parent company and its subsidiary form, in the present case, a single undertaking, the commission may impose fines on the parent company without having to establish its individual involvement in the infringement,” the court said today in a statement.

Rome-based Eni declined to comment. The shares fell as much as 0.5 percent and closed down 0.1 percent at 18.50 euros in Milan.

The case is: C-508/11 P, ENI v. Commission.

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