An Italian national has become the first executive to be sent from the EU to the US on an antitrust charge following litigated extradition proceedings. Romano Piscotti, an Italian national, was extradited from Germany on a charge of participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids, fixing prices and allocating market shares for sales of marine hoses sold in the US and elsewhere (the marine hoses cartel was a worldwide cartel).
Mr Piscotti, who was an executive at marine hose supplier Parker ITR, is charged with violating the US Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and US$1 million criminal fine for individuals that are found guilty. Maximum fines for breaching the Sherman Act can be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims.
As a matter of EU competition law, penalties are focused on corporate entities. Fines are imposed on the companies that are found to have engaged in unlawful conduct but with the intention that their magnitude forces deterrence through the corporate veil and onto individual executives and employees. The penalties imposed by EU Member States under national antitrust rules are, however, increasingly focused on individuals, for example:
Czech Republic – criminal penalties for members of the management board who infringe the competition rules were introduced in 2002
Greece – individuals who took part in the conclusion or implementation of a cartel can be imprisoned for 2-5 years and fined up to €1 million
Ireland – the Competition Authority may recommend to the public prosecutor that criminal proceedings should be initiated against individuals involved
Slovenia – the restriction of competition can be a criminal offence with a penalty of imprisonment for up to 3 years
UK – individuals found guilty of the cartel offence can be fined and/or sent to prison.
The potential for executives to be extradited where they have been involved in inter-continental cartels (which tend to be investigated under EU law), further sharpens the individual, personal risks.
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