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Reuters: EU to set second-highest fine on rubber cartel: *Shell a repeat offender again

EXTRACT: Shell’s fine, as well as Eni’s, was increased from what it would have been under the Commission’s normal calculations because it was a repeat offender. The Commission slapped a 108 million-euro fine on Shell in September for fixing prices of bitumen in the Netherlands. It also fined 13 other firms.

THE ARTICLE

Tue Nov 28, 2006 2:02 PM ET

BRUSSELS, Nov 28 (Reuters) – The European Commission will impose on Wednesday its second largest cartel fine ever against Shell, Dow Chemical, Unipetrol and Trade-Stomil, a Commission draft document showed.

The document did not specify the level of the fines on the oil and chemical firms for fixing prices of synthetic rubber, used mainly in tyre production. The Commission declined to comment.

According to the draft seen by Reuters on Tuesday, Germany’s Bayer will not have to pay a fine because it was the first company to inform the EU executive about the cartel.

The highest cartel fine the Commission has set by sector was 790.5 million euros ($1.04 billion) on a vitamin industry case in 2001. The second highest was 478.3 million euros, on a cartel in the plasterboard industry in 2002.

“The statements from Bayer were to a large extent confirmed by the statements given by Dow. At a later stage, Shell also admitted to having participated in the cartel,” the draft document said.

It said Dow’s fine was reduced because of the information it gave but although Shell admitted participating in the cartel, its information did not add much value to the Commission’s investigation and so it did not get any reduction.

Shell’s fine, as well as Eni’s, was increased from what it would have been under the Commission’s normal calculations because it was a repeat offender.

The Commission slapped a 108 million-euro fine on Shell in September for fixing prices of bitumen in the Netherlands. It also fined 13 other firms.

The document said the companies met to fix prices between 1996 and 2002.

“The cartel meetings took place in various cities (Milan, Vienna, Amsterdam, Prague and London, among others),” it said.

“During these meetings the participants agreed prices and exchanged information on key customers and the amounts of synthetic rubber supplied to them.”

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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