European High Court adviser Juliane Kokott has made a recommendation that an original 2008 decision to fine Fresh Del Monte and Dole Food Company for their roles in a banana price-fixing scheme, which took place between 2000 and 2002, should be upheld.
The decision to fine the companies a combined €55.4m over the banana cartel was originally taken six years ago, although a March 2013 ruling in a lower court trimmed Del Monte's fine down from €14.7m to €8.82m – a move that Kokott disagreed with in her recommendations last week, Law 360 reported.
She said that Del Monte and its subsidiary Fruchtimport Gesellschaft Weichert GmbH & Co. KG should not have been given a 10 per cent discount for cooperating during the investigation, because by the time of the administrative procedures Del Monte and Weichert were not a united operation.
Kokott's verdict differed from the 2013 court ruling, which suggested cutting the €14.7m fine due to the fact that it didn't reflect the fact Del Monte's Fruchtimport Gesellschaft Weichert GmbH & Co. KG only participated in part of the cartel.
“In order to correct the error of law found to exist in the judgement under appeal, the [reduction] of the fine granted by the General Court in recognition of Weichert’s cooperation during the administrative procedure must be reversed,” Law 360 quoted Kokott as saying.
Aside from that change made in last year's ruling, Kokott suggested that the court should go along with the General Court’s 2013 decision to sign off on the bulk of the EC's findings that the two distributors were part of a banana cartel in Europe alongside Chiquita – although the latter was not punished due to the fact that it had actually brought the matter to the attention of antitrust authorities.