Cartel fines slashed for BASF, Daiichi

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Basf European union

BASF and Daiichi, two of the companies involved in the 1990s
vitamin cartel, have had their fines significantly reduced by a
European court, which ruled that the Commission made errors when
calculating the fines.

In November 2001, the European Commission found that several companies were involved in a series of cartels in 12 vitamin markets between 1989 and 1999 and imposed fines totalling €833.23m.

For its part in eight cartels (vitamins A, E, B2, B5, C, D3, beta-carotene and carotenoids), BASF was fined a total of €296.16 m. Daiichi was found to have been involved in the vitamin B5 cartel and was fined €23.4 m.

But the two companies contested the decision before the Court of First Instance, with the outcome that BASF's fine was yesterday reduced to €236.9m, and Daiichi's to €18m.

A statement issued by the court said that it "rejected the majority of the arguments of BASF and Daiichi"​.

However it did concede that, in the case of vitamins C, D3, beta-carotene and carotenoids, there was not enough evidence that BASF had acted as leader or instigator.

Moreover BASF was the first to provide the Commission with decisive evidence of the existence of the beta-carotene and carotenoid cartels, and therefore benefited from further reductions of fines related to these.

For the Japanese company Daiichi (now Daiichi Sankyo), the court found that the Commission had underestimated the importance of cooperation with the enquiry.

BASF spokesperson Daniel Smith told that the difference will be re-paid to the company with interest.

"BASF will carefully review the decision and then decide whether to take further legal action,"​ he said.

The companies have two months within which they may bring an appeal before the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

Roche, whose vitamins and fine chemicals unit has since been acquired by DSM, paid the lion's share of the overall fines, €462m, for the leading role it played. Other companies fined were Takeda Chemical industries (€37 m), Eisai (€13 m), Merck (€9 m), Solvay (€9 m) and Aventis (€5 m).

Separate charges were brought in the US, resulting in fines of more than $2 bn to federal and state governments and private plaintiffs.

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