Rebuttable presumption where the parent company has 100% shareholding

The Court’s ruling discussed may be relevant to the application of TFUE as it introduces a clear rule regarding prerequisites for attributing the responsibility of a parent company’s for business actions of its subsidiaries. It is already a well-established doctrinal and juridical position that a parent company can be called to account for cartel offences committed by its subsidiaries if it exercises a decisive influence over them. In its recent ruling, including the Akzo Nobel judgment, the Court of Justice stated that when a parent company holds 100% of the capital of a subsidiary which has committed an infringement, it can be simply presumed that the parent company exerts decisive influence over the conduct of its subsidiary, and that they therefore constitute a single undertaking within the meaning of Article 101 TFUE. It is thus for a parent company which challenges before the Community judicature the Commission decision fining it for the conduct of its subsidiary to rebut that presumption by adducing the evidence to establish that its subsidiary was independent. Attribution of responsibility to a parent company is consistent with the principle of personal responsibility and with the objective of effective enforcement of the competition rules to hold all the companies of the group which have participated in the cartel, together with the parent company, jointly and severally liable for the purpose of punishing the cartel offence. Only in that way can it also be ensured that, when assessing the amount of a fine to be imposed, the true economic strength of the whole undertaking is correctly taken into account and that the successful enforcement of the fine is not jeopardised by any transfers of assets between the parent company and its subsidiaries.

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