In the latest instalment of the Cleary Gottlieb Antitrust Review podcast, host Nick Levy is joined by Saverio Valentino, Board member of the Italian Antitrust Authority. The conversation covers Saverio’s first year in the role, the agency’s current priorities, merger control and FDI regulation, cartel enforcement, rights of defence, judicial review, and much more.

In a 350-page decision dated  December 29, 2023, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) sanctioned four professional associations and eleven undertakings, in their capacity as members of these associations, for having implemented a collective strategy to prevent market players from competing on the presence or absence of Bisphenol A (“BPA”) in food containers (the “Decision”). [1] The total fine amounts to €19,543,400.

On December 15, 2023, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) published its Revised Leniency Guidelines, which repealed and replaced the 2015 guidelines.[1]  The Revised Leniency Guidelines were adopted as part of the implementation of the “DDADUE” law,[2] the ECN+ directive,[3] and the “Damages” directive.[4]  They aim to provide greater legal certainty for leniency applicants and modernize the leniency application procedure.

On December 7, 2023, the Commission imposed a fine of almost €48 million on Lantmännen ek för, the largest producer of ethanol in the Nordic region, for participating in a 1.5-year cartel manipulating the wholesale price of ethanol in the EEA.[1]

On October 19, 2023, the Commission imposed fines totalling €13.4 million on five pharmaceutical companies (Alkaloids of Australia, Alkaloids Corporation, Boehringer, Linnea, and Transo-Pharm) for their participation in a cartel in relation to an active pharmaceutical ingredient.[1]  This is the Commission’s first-ever cartel decision in the pharmaceutical sector, adding to the Commission’s extensive enforcement action against pharmaceutical companies.

On October 18, 2023, the French Cour de cassation upheld the Paris Court of Appeals’ ruling finding that the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) had rightly calculated the amount of the fine imposed on L’Oréal in 2014 for its alleged involvement in a cartel in the personal care products industry.[1] The French Cour de cassation confirmed that the sales of a subsidiary that did not itself participate in the infringement can be included in the calculation of the fine if these sales have been affected by the infringement sanctioned.

On October 18, 2023, the General Court delivered its judgment in Clariant v. Commission.[1]  It upheld the Commission’s settlement decision in the Ethylene case,[2] following an appeal by Clariant, who argued that the Commission erred in: (i) applying a 50% recidivism multiplier to Clariant in circumstances where the previous infringement in which it had participated was not a purchasing cartel, but rather a sales cartel; and (ii) applying a 10% fine increase (to all participants) on account of the infringement being a purchasing cartel, to ensure adequate deterrence.  The General Court also rejected a counterclaim lodged by the Commission, in which the Commission sought to increase the fine imposed on Clariant by removing its 10% settlement discount, on the basis that Clariant had accepted to be fined in the context of settlement proceedings.

On October 5, 2023, Advocate General Rantos delivered his opinion on two questions referred to the Court of Justice by the Portuguese Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court (the “referring court”).[1]  The referring court seeks clarification on whether a ‘standalone’[2] exchange of information between competitors can be classified as a restriction by object under Article 101 TFEU, and whether that classification is permitted where it has not been possible to establish any uncertain or procompetitive effect on competition resulting from the exchange.  The case gives the Court of Justice an opportunity to clarify its recent evolution from a broad and formalistic interpretation of the concept of a restriction by object to a narrower, more  pragmatic interpretation of that concept.[3]