The Finnish Asphalt Cartel Court Decision on Damages: An Important EU Precedent and Victory for Plaintiffs

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John M. Connor, Toni Kalliokoski, Feb 26, 2014

During 2002-2004, the Finnish Competition Authority investigated the National Road Administration, seven construction companies, and their trade association for bid-rigging road asphalt projects over an eight-year period. According to the FCA, affected sales were about $2.17 billion. The FCA considered the companies and their association guilty of illegal cooperation in bidding, allocation of markets, exchange of sensitive business information, and preventing entry of new suppliers, but did not press charges against the NRA because of lack of evidence.

In 2004, the FCA proposed to the Market Court a fine of EUR 92 million ($122 million), of which the cartel’s leader Lemminkäinen Oyj was to pay 70 percent. Three years later that court issued a decision that severely reduced the proposed fines, but it was overruled by the Supreme Administrative Court in late 2009, which imposed fines of EUR 82.6 million ($124 million), of which Lemminkäinen Oyj was to pay 82 percent. These are by far the highest antitrust fines in Finland’s history.

After the Supreme Administrative Court’s judgment, an antitrust damages trial ensued in the Helsinki District Court in which the State of Finland and 40 cities and towns made claims of EUR 120 million against the privately owned construction companies. The ensuing trial was by many measures the largest civil proceeding ever seen in Finland’s courts.The District Court’s decision of November 28, 2013 is the first cartel antitrust damages judgment in the history of Finland.