BASF picks Cleary for EC fine appeal

German Chemicals giant BASF is to appeal against the European Commission's landmark €296m (£182.7m) fine over the company's involvement in a price-rigging cartel

BASF was the sole member of the cartel to rely on in-house counsel for its defence, but has now drafted in an antitrust team from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton to fight the appeal.
The commission fined eight cartel members a total of €855m (£527.7m), the biggest fine ever handed down. BASF, which received the second-highest penalty, has until the end of February to formally lodge an appeal with the Court of First Instance. It has taken on antitrust star Nick Levy, who will lead the appeal from Cleary Gottlieb's Brussels office.
In a statement, the chemicals giant said: “BASF has admitted responsibility for the antitrust violations relating to the vitamins business… The appeal therefore relates solely to the level of the fine…. It is primarily based on the failure to take sufficient account of BASF's cooperation.”
The commission's case relied on a prior antitrust investigation in the US and evidence from Aventis, which turned whistleblower. Bernard Amory at Jones Day Reavis & Pogue secured total immunity for Aventis. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer represented five of the other defendants, including the main protagonists Hoffmann-La Roche.
Swiss-based Hoffmann got the highest fine of €462m (£285.1m), as it did in the US. However, unlike in the US, BASF was singled out for a particularly large fine. Many antitrust lawyers consider a cartel investigation too specialist to fight solely with in-house resources and believe that this may not have helped BASF's case.