South African energy and chemical giant Sasol secured a significant victory against the European Commission today (11 July), after the European Union’s court of first instance more than halved the €318m fine imposed on it for fixing the price of paraffin wax.
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The EU’s General Court held that the Commission had incorrectly held Sasol liable for the conduct of a subsidiary, without establishing its role in managing the subsidiary and, in addition, treating it differently to the subsidiary’s other shareholders. The court thus reduced the fine to €149m.
It also reduced to €63m the €84 million fine imposed on Exxon Mobil for the same practices.
The Commission’s 2008 paraffin wax decision fined nine companies a total of €676m, one of the largest cartel fines ever handed down by the Commission at that time. Shell also participated in the cartel, but escaped a fine as the whistle-blower.
The Commission increased Sasol’s fine by 50% because it considered that the company had led and organised the cartel – a finding confirmed today by the court. Some participants in the cartel had referred to themselves as the “paraffin mafia”.
Paraffin wax is used in a range of everyday items, including paper cups and plates, rubber tyres, cheese coatings and candles.