Sun, Oct 22, 2017 - Page 16 News List

BMW offices raided by EU

Reuters, MUNICH and BRUSSELS

BMW AG’s headquarters were raided by EU officials investigating an alleged cartel among German carmakers, it said on Friday, as rival Daimler AG claimed whistle-blower status in an effort to avoid fines.

EU staff had “conducted an inspection” at BMW’s Munich offices this week, the premium carmaker said in a statement, adding that it is “assisting the European Commission in its work.”

The European Commission said that its antitrust officials had on Monday last week swooped unannounced on “a carmaker in Germany” in the first confirmed raid related to allegations that several German automakers had engaged in an illegal cartel.

The competition watchdog in July said that it was investigating collusion among German carmakers in response to a tip-off, after Der Spiegel magazine reported that Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen AG and its Audi and Porsche arms conspired to fix prices in diesel and other technologies for decades.

“The BMW Group wishes to make clear the distinction between potential violations of antitrust law on the one hand and illegal manipulation of exhaust gas treatment on the other,” the company said. “The BMW Group has not been accused of the latter.”

Brussels has yet to initiate formal antitrust proceedings against any of the carmakers.

However, the allegations have begun to spawn US lawsuits, adding to strains on an industry already struggling with the reputational fallout from widespread diesel emissions-test manipulation exposed in the wake of Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal.

Daimler on Friday said that it had “filed an application for immunity from fines with the European Commission some time ago,” effectively claiming to have blown the whistle on what Daimler chief financial officer Bodo Uebber described as “possible antitrust agreements” with rival manufacturers.

Daimler sees no need to set aside any funds for possible antitrust fines, Uebber added.

To gain immunity, the EU’s antitrust Web site said, a company that participated in a cartel must be the first to inform the European Commission of an undetected cartel by providing sufficient information to justify inspections.

The commission has declined to identify the original source of the tip-off, saying this is to avoid compromising its investigation.

“Daimler is cooperating with the Commission under its leniency program,” an EU representative said on Friday.

Volkswagen could also benefit from leniency after sharing information, earlier reports said.

Even after an initial alert, other cartel participants can reduce EU fines — by up to 50 percent for the first to step forward with material evidence.

Volkswagen’s offices have not been subject to EU raids in relation to the cartel investigation, a spokesman for the Wolfsburg-based car giant said, declining further comment.

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