Alstom Power Systems GmbH ("Alstom"), a German subsidiary of the French company Alstom SA, and a manufacturer of boilers for brown coal power stations, together with two of its former managers, was fined approx. €91 million by the German Federal Cartel Office ("BKartA") on Thursday, 12 August, for bid-rigging, which included the assignment of customers as well as fixing quotas and prices with its competitors when participating in large public tenders.
Between the 1990's and 2003, Alstom (then called EVT Energie- und Verfahrenstechnik GmbH) together with its competitors, Babcock, Steinmüller and Lentjes, fixed the bids submitted by each of the companies in public tender processes to supply boilers for large brown coal power stations at various locations in Germany. The participants in the cartel together agreed the details of the bids before they were handed in, thereby ensuring that each of the four companies received at least one of the large projects at a price over and above what would ordinarily have been expected. The company that won the overpriced bid would form a consortium under its lead comprising of the other members of the cartel. The projects were shared by reference to each company's market share, to guarantee all four participants in the cartel were involved to their best capacity throughout each of the projects.
Given the boiler manufacturing business of each of Steinmüller and Lentjes merged with Babcock in the 1990's, and Babcock has since become insolvent, Alstom is the only party still active in the manufacture of boilers for coal power stations. Consequently, fines have only been imposed on Alstom,
The order imposing the BKartA's fine is not yet final and can be appealed by Alstom to the Court of Appeal in Düsseldorf (Oberlandesgericht).
Bid-rigging is also punishable under German criminal law. It is the only horizontal infringement in German competition law that can lead to the imposition of criminal law sanctions on individuals. In this case, in addition to the fines imposed by the BKartA, the German public prosecutor's office has also investigated the matter with respect to possible violations of the criminal law prohibition on bid-rigging by previous managers (fraudulent submission of bids). The majority of such investigations have been closed before any charges were brought after payment of fines by the targeted individuals
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