EU Must Pay for Delay in Deciding Antitrust Case

(CN) – Europe’s General Court ordered the European Union on Wednesday to pay more than $730,000 in damages to a glass company that faced excessively delayed antitrust proceedings.

In 2007, the European Commission fined Guardian Industries and Guardian Europe $167 million for the role in a glass cartel. The companies appealed the fine the following year, which the European General Court took 4 1/2 years to dismiss.

The companies then lodged a final appeal with the European Court of Justice, which in 2014 reduced the fine to $117 million.

Guardian Europe then sued the European Union, seeking damages of over $19 million for the general court’s delay in deciding the initial appeal and $28 million for the prejudice it suffered as a result of the lower court’s excessive fine.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, an en banc general court agreed it had taken too long to hear Guardian’s appeal – 41 months from filing to oral arguments, far beyond the case-law standard of 15 months from filing to oral arguments.

The Luxembourg-based court further held the circumstances of the case didn’t justify the delay of 26 months above the court’s standard. But the justices balked at Guardian Europe’s $19 million demand, finding the only remedy appropriate is to pay the company’s bank-guarantee costs with respect to the commission’s fine: just over $730,000.

As to Guardian Europe’s claim that it had been prejudiced by a fine that was eventually found to be excessive, the general court noted the fine had been substantially reduced by the EU high court – erasing the company’s claim of prejudice.

 

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