A €302 Million Warning Shot on Antitrust Violations
The European Commission assessed a whopping fine, and investor Goldman Sachs is liable for part of it.
By Marlisse Silver SweeneyApril 08, 2014
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A whopping 302 million euros ($413.74 million) fine is providing a stern reminder to private equity firms about antitrust risks, according to a recent update from Hogan Lovells. Last week, the European Commission fined the producers of underground and submarine high-voltage power cables for participation in a market and customer-sharing cartel.
The folks at Hogan Lovells are calling the decision remarkable, “since it also held the investment company Goldman Sachs liable for a fine of 37 million euros as the former owner” of one of the participants in the cartel, and they say that although holding parent companies liable isn’t new, usually they’re industrial owners, not private equity houses. “Parental liability can be triggered even if the parent had no involvement or awareness of the breach and did not in any way encourage the subsidiary to commit it,” they explain.
The commission isn’t claiming Goldman was involved in the unlawful activities but instead is basing the fine on the links between the equity firm and the offending company, say the authors. They note the commission found Goldman Sachs “held decisive influence” over the company for the period it was alleged to have participated in the cartel. Goldman Sachs is jointly and severally liable for 37.3 million euros ($50.36 million). “This fine serves as an important reminder to private equity houses that they are not immune from antitrust fines imposed as a result of the behavior of companies within their investment portfolio.”
In the Goulston & Storrs 2017 General Counsel Survey, fifteen percent of GCs or in-house counsel say they have the most difficulty identifying exposures, and this emerging risk is reshaping their role.
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