A Company's 'Inability to Pay' a Cartel Fine Imposed by the European Commission

Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb, p. 926, 2011

13 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2011

See all articles by Carsten Grave

Carsten Grave

Linklaters LLP; Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf

Jenny Nyberg


Date Written: November 17, 2011


The concurrence of recession and extended length of proceedings has led to a massive increase since 2009 in the number of applications to the European Commission for a reduction of a cartel fine due to an enterprise's "inability to pay." This raises the fundamental question whether the "death penalty" for enterprises should be part of the sanctions foreseen by the competition law system. In order to be successful with an application for reduction of a fine, the enterprise will have to prove in practice (a) that the fine considered by the Commission would result in the enterprise's insolvency and (b) that the enterprise's activities would not be continued by someone else. In addition, without the fine, the exit from the market would be avoided. Further conditions, namely that the enterprise's assets would loose any value in the event of an insolvency and that there would be a particularly significant impact within the firm’s wider social and economic environment have in practice been watered down by the Commission in response to the economic crisis. Under the more permissive test, enterprises have indeed achieved reductions of fines of up to 95%; this said, the majority of applications has been rejected.

Keywords: cartel, cartel procedings, fine, fines, inability to pay, insolvency, bankrupcy, European Commission, Commission, European Union, competition law

JEL Classification: K21, L41

Suggested Citation

Grave, Carsten and Nyberg, Jenny, A Company's 'Inability to Pay' a Cartel Fine Imposed by the European Commission (November 17, 2011). Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb, p. 926, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1961744

Carsten Grave (Contact Author)

Linklaters LLP ( email )

Königsallee 49-51
Düsseldorf, 40212

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf ( email )

Universitätsstr. 1
Düsseldorf, D-40225

Jenny Nyberg

Linklaters ( email )

United States

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