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


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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