Schienenkartell

“Rails cartel.” Troubled steel giant Thyssen-Krupp and three other firms are defendants in a lawsuit by the Deutsche Bahn for railroad construction price-setting collusion said to have lasted almost a decade. Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is seeking 550 million euros after, it said, trying for several months to reach an out-of-court settlement. Its lawsuit is said to have good chances, in particular because somehow the suit suspends the statute of limitations for the offenses, for which these companies were fined ˜100 million euros last summer by the German Federal Cartel Authority (Bundeskartellamt), which criticized the Deutsche Bahn’s lax procedures. Tagesschau.de reports that the Deutsche Bahn has often been the victim of rail cartels. The F.A.Z. called them “nearly a historical normality.” In 2012 Thyssen-Krupp announced losses of 5 billion euros after failures of e.g. investments in steel processing plants in the USA and Brazil; it fired half its board in consequence.

Update on 23 Jul 2013: The Bundeskartellamt announced it has issued a second set of fines in this matter totalling ˜97 million euros to eight companies, moving its fines total for this rail cartel to ~230 million euros. This second set of fines was for overcharging construction firms and local, regional, private and industry train organizations. F.A.Z. reported the fine money will go to the federal government. Almost all the companies are cooperating, according to the cartel authority. The investigation was started by a request to turn state’s evidence from the Austrian Voestalpine company, which also said recently that it is the only one of these companies to have reached a negotiated settlement with the Deutsche Bahn so far. This second set of BKA fines is not yet final; they may still be appealed.

The Bundeskartellamt’s press release said in the cartel the company scheduled to win each order was given a “leadership” role that included telling the others how much to ask for in their so-called “safety bids” [“Schutzangebote“] tendered to camouflage the collusion.

(SHEE nen cartel.)

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