German Court Rejects Access to Leniency Applications in the Aftermath of the ECJ’s Preliminary Ruling in Pfleiderer

February 17, 2012

In January 2012, the District Court of Bonn determined that a victim of a cartel seeking damages has no right to access the corporate statements of a leniency applicant. Pfleiderer, a customer and alleged victim of the decorative paper cartel, had approached the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) in 2008, and requested full access to the cartel file, including access to the leniency statements. The FCO granted limited access to the file, and denied access to the authority’s internal documents and to corporate statements and associated evidence, i.e., documents that were voluntarily submitted in connection with the leniency application. Pfleiderer appealed to the District Court of Bonn, seeking access to the entire file. After obtaining a preliminary ruling from the ECJ, the District Court now upheld the FCO’s decision to reject access to leniency statements. In addition to access to the fining decisions and a list of evidence, the District Court now also allowed access to evidence seized during the proceedings.