collusion, settlement, South Africa

Soccer fields, SRAM, and Sotheby’s? Fast-track settlements in ZA construction probe yield €113m

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What do soccer stadiums, LCD panels, and lysine** have in common?  Price-fixing might be one answer.  Record antitrust fines might be another, closely related, response.

The South African Competition Commission (“Commission”) has obtained settlements of 1.5 billion rand or about €113 million with up to 15 construction companies.  This constitutes, by our reckoning, a new record for the Commission.

The fast-track settlement procedure used by the agency (in all but 3 cases, in which the accused firms chose not to pursue fast-tracking) shortened the time necessary to reach finality on the deals.  It also allows the Commission to free up its manpower resources to work on other matters, since maintaining full-fledged investigations in all of the now-settled cases would have been a long and arduous process for all parties involved — as we reported previously on AfricanAntitrust.com here and here, the scope of the ZA construction-sector bid-rigging investigation has ballooned beyond even the wildest dreams of enforcers.

The Commission’s press release sheds further light on the breakdown of the fines per party, covering conduct since September 2006 in over 300 instances of bid-rigging:

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Post-scriptum: The fines, although record-setting, are lower than expected by investors.  Consequently, shares in the affected undertakings have soared 1-3%, as reported by BusinessReport here.

** Sorry – I strayed a bit from the original alliterative title here.  (Otherwise, I could not have made the “record fines” point…)

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