Leading Italian Industrial Gases Producer Wins Dismissal in Antitrust Case

January 22, 2008

The Italian Supreme Administrative Court reversed an Italian Antitrust Authority decision that imposed a €5.6 million fine on Cleary Gottlieb client Rivoira SpA for allegedly forming a cartel with several Italian industrial gases market competitors. The court handed down its decision on January 22.

On appeal before the court, Cleary Gottlieb argued that the IAA did not sufficiently prove the existence of either an overall complex cartel agreement at a national level or Rivoira’s involvement in it. Cleary Gottlieb also argued that the IAA had wrongly considered the infringement as “serious,” which is a precondition for fines. Cleary Gottlieb showed that the alleged cartel agreement did not result in an increase in industrial gas prices in Italy. Finally, Cleary Gottlieb argued that the IAA did not adequately take into account a number of factors relevant in determining Rivoira’s fine, including the fact that Rivoira’s top management was not involved in any of the contested facts and that undue relevance was attributed to Rivoira’s being part of a multinational group, Praxair Inc.

In granting Cleary Gottlieb’s appeal, the SAC reversed the decision of the court of first instance, the Administrative Tribunal of Latium, Rome confirming the IAA decision to fine Rivoira. By dismissing the IAA’s appeal, the court affirmed the ATL’s decision to annul the IAA’s refusal to renew an exemption for two Southern Italian industrial gases production joint ventures in which Rivoira participates.