On February 28, 2013, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (“GFCO”) searched the offices of three steelmakers as part of an antitrust investigation into steel supplies to the automotive industry. Specifically, GFCO raided the offices of Voestalpine, ThyssenKrupp, and ArcelorMittal as part of an investigation into potentially illegal pricing agreements between the steelmakers that supply the automotive industry. GFCO confirmed it had searched the premises of these three companies at four locations in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia as well as private residences of some of the suspects of the probe.
Each of the companies made public statements indicating that they are cooperating with the investigation. ThyssenKrupp’s Chairman of the Executive Board Heinrich Hiessinger, quoted on several news outlets, said the company has a “zero tolerance” policy regarding antitrust violations and was further quoted as stating, “We are in the process of implementing a full-scale change in leadership culture at ThyssenKrupp. I take this very seriously. Anyone who doesn’t cooperate has no business working with us.” Similarly, Voestalpine confirmed that the offices of its German subsidiary Voestalpine Deutschland GmbH in Munich had been searched and said on its Web site that it supports the investigation. While ArcelorMittal did not itself confirm that its offices had been searched, an ArcelorMittal spokesperson, quoted on Reuters, indicated that “we are cooperating with the relevant authorities.”
The announcement of the raid comes at a time of ever-increasing global coordination among enforcement agencies and amid ongoing, active antitrust investigations of the automotive supply chain domestically and abroad.
Last year, the GFCO also investigated Voestalpine and ThyssenKrupp for price fixing in the train-track industry. Both companies paid fines following that cartel investigation.