Parents Are Liable for Their Children: Presumption of Parental Liability Under EU Antitrust Law

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Under EU antitrust law, parent companies are presumed liable for antitrust infringement of their wholly owned subsidiaries. While this presumption is rebuttable, it is unclear what a company must do to rebut it successfully. The recent Air Liquide judgment of the General Court of the European Union marks the first time that a company escaped the presumption of liability, if only for procedural reasons. The judgment also sheds some light on the arguments that may work for a parent company.

Under EU antitrust law, parent companies can be jointly and severally liable for antitrust infringements committed by their subsidiaries. In this case, the parent company is also a direct addressee of the European Commission’s fining decision. This has far-reaching consequences for parent companies. Given the extraordinary fines amount imposed by the European Commission, this is not a comfortable situation to be in.

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