Milan Court Awards €3.5m to Precast Concrete Manufacturers Represented by Scoccini&Associati for Damages Caused by the Prestressing Steel CartelOn May 15, 2023, the Court of Milan fully accepted the claim filed by a group of precast concrete manufacturers for compensation due to damages caused by a cartel among European and Italian producers of prestressing steel strands. PER LA VERSIONE IN ITALIANO CLICCA QUI
The case that led to the judgment at stake was complex and demanding: the two claimant companies, belonging to a group specialized in prefabricated constructions, filed a claim against three suppliers of prestressed steel strands. Subsequently, three additional suppliers were joined in the case by the original defendants, making a total of six counterparts faced by the claimants.
The Court of Milan sided with the claimants represented by Scoccini & Associati and awarded them compensation for approximately € 3.5 million, on top of the amount received in previous settlements with other cartelists, and ordered the counterparties to pay € 75,000,00 in legal costs.
Due to the eight-year duration of the case, the compensation amount granted by the Court of Milan, along with statutory interest and revaluation, exceeded by more than one million euros the initially requested amount in the writ of summons.
The case arose as follow-on action from a decision of the European Commission that ascertained a pan-European cartel in prestressing steel market. However, the claimants also requested compensation for the Italian cartel that was not ascertained by the European Commission.
The judgment deserves attention as it deals with numerous, complex issues that are relevant in private antitrust enforcement cases. In the judgment the Milan Court:
1.returned to the widely debated topic of the limitation period, distinguishing dies a quo in secret cartels and in abuses of a dominant position.
2.awarded damages both for the pan-European cartel ascertained by the European Commission an for the Italian cartel that was outside the scope of the Commission’s Decision. This stand alone claim was accepted by the Court after the exam of the documents in the file of the Commission and the results of the report of the witness expert appointed by the Court.
3.endorsed the principle, enshrined by the EU Court of Justice, that all the damages which have a causal link with the anticompetitive offence shall be compensated. The Court ascertained :
a. the overcharge on supplies purchased by the claimants after the end of the cartel, due to the dragging effect of prices in the years following the cartel period stated in the decision (“Lingering Period”);
b.the overcharge on supplies purchased from parties not participating in the cartel (the so called “Umbrella Effects”);
4. confirmed that all members of the cartel are jointly liable, including those not operating in the Italian market at the time of the infringement.
5.rejected the exception of passing on, ruling on the evidentiary standard of such defense objection.
The judgement drafted by Dr. Claudio Marangoni, the President of the Enterprises’ Division of the Court of Milan, demonstrates the expertise and meticulousness of the Court of Milan in dealing with articulated antitrust cases. The Court appointed a university professor of Economics as witness expert for the quantification of the damage and requested assistance from the European Commission according to article n. 6, paragraph 7, of the 2014/104 EU Directive on Antitrust damages actions.
For the several issues dealt with, for the application of the principles of EU law in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Justice and for the evidentiary appraisals, the judgement will become a milestone for the Italian Private Antitrust Enforcement.
The lead lawyer of the case was Giovanni Scoccini, who, was supported by Scoccini & Associati’s associates and locally before the Court of Milan by Rucellai and Raffaelli lawyers in Milan. The plaintiffs were also assisted by Professor Pierluigi Parcu and Professor Alessandra Maria Rossi for the quantification of the damage and in the trial with the witness expert appointed by the judge.