(CN) - Chiquita dodged liability for participating in a banana cartel in Southern Europe because it cooperated with an investigation, but Pacific Fruit must pay $12.2 million fine for its role in the cartel, the European Commission said.
Pacific Fruit and Chiquita, two of the world's largest importers of bananas, fixed prices and shared price information between July 2004 and April 2005, according to the commission.
Italy, Greece and Portugal were all affected by the scheme, buying about $720 million worth of bananas a year during the conspiracy, the commission found.
"Consumers did not enjoy the benefits of undistorted competition for nearly a year," the commission said in a statement, adding that the cartel violated EU's antitrust law.
"Companies need to be aware that the commission takes its anti-cartel enforcement duties very seriously," Commission Vice President Joaquín Almunia said in a statement. "There are only two ways to avoid a fine: refrain from joining a cartel or, if you have fallen for it, repent rapidly and inform the commission about it."
Chiquita was involved in another European cartel uncovered in 2008 but avoided penalties because it blew the whistle that time too. The other companies in the cartel, Dole and Weichert, had to pay a $83.3 million fine.
Chiquita spokesperson Ed Loyd told Courthouse News, "We are pleased to have this issue concluded and will continue our focus on providing consumers with healthy and nutritious foods."
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.