The European Court has upheld a Commission decision fining professional service provider AC Treuhand for being the 'secretary'/facilitator of a cartel amongst competitors even though AC Treuhand was not active itself in the underlying market which was cartelised.
This is an important judgment for entities that become involved in information exchanges and data services to entire industries (such as trade associations or professional data firms). Such firms could become exposed to fines (and damages) if they become involved in an unlawful information exchange or cartel.
In this instance the consultancy "firm actively contribute[d], in full knowledge of the relevant facts, to the implementation and continuation of a cartel".
The EU's highest court, the CJEU, held that this is even true where "even if the person concerned has to take appropriate legal advice to assess, to a degree that is reasonable in the circumstances, the consequences which a given action may entail".
This is a final judgment in the case on appeal from the first instance General Court. Unusually, the CJEU decided not to follow the opinion of its Advocate General (see my post of 21 May) who took the view that you could not be liable if you were not active in the same relevant market.
Full text of the judgment here