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National Grid sues for access to Europe-wide cartel’s secret documents

The High Court in London has to rule on whether National Grid can have access to confidential documents that were made by companies involved in a Europe-wide engineering cartel, which the company is accusing of costing it £235m in business.

The illegal engineering cartel ran from 1988 to 2004, and the companies involved were fined £675m by the European Competition Commission.

National Grid is suing the groups who were part of the cartel. These are Switzerland’s ABB, Germany’s Siemens, and Alstom and Areva of France. The claim has been ongoing since 2008.

The High Court’s decision relates to the confidential pleadings that were made by three of the engineering groups during the Competition Commission’s leniency process. The leniency process is meant to encourage companies involved in cartels to expose them to the Commission in return for immunity from prosecution.

ABB, Siemens and Areva applied for leniency, only ABB was exempt.

National Grid wants to see these leniency applications now to aid it in its case against the cartel. The company says it suffered “substantial losses by reason of overcharges resulting from the illegal cartel.”

Alstom and Areva also withheld further evidence, as they claimed that French law prevented their release. However, Siemens and ABB also held these documents and in a judgment ordering their disclosure by the non-French firms, Roth wrote: “There is no dispute that the documents of which disclosure is sought by [National Grid] are relevant to these proceedings and are documents to which [National Grid] would be entitled by way of standard disclosure under English rules in the absence of some supervening provision of EU law.”

National Grid was listed on the FTSE 100 after the electricity industry was privatised in 1990.

In a statement, the company said it was keen to maintain good commercial relationships with the companies who it is suing, and that it wants to work with them constructively throughout the legal process.

Related Links:

Read more on the story (Guardian)

Find local competition law solicitors (Caven)

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