Cartel Digest

Specialty Graphite

Specialty Graphite
  Overall Cartel Period 1993-1998
  Participants SGL Carbon AG; Le Carbone-Lorraine SA; Ibiden Co., Ltd.; Tokai Carbon Co., Ltd.; Toyo Tanso Co., Ltd.; GrafTech International, Ltd.; NSCC Techno Carbon Co., Ltd. and Nippon Steel Chemical Co., Ltd.; Intech EDM BV and Intech EDM AG
  Total Fines (DOJ) $11.8 million
  Total Fines (EC) €51.4 million

In March of 2000, the European Commission (“EC”) commenced investigations into the specialty graphite markets, which include isostatic graphite and extruded graphite.  Isostatic graphite is commonly used in electrical discharge machinery and in the manufacture of semi-conductor chips, and extruded graphite is used in electrolytic anodes and cathodes, boats, sintering trays and crucibles. In 2000, the EC concluded that companies in the industry fixed the price of isostatic specialty graphite products. Two of those companies also participated in a parallel price-fixing cartel for extruded graphite products.  In 2000 and 2001, two manufacturers of isostatic graphite pled guilty in a U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) case to charges of participating in a conspiracy among the major producers of isostatic graphite to fix prices in the United States and elsewhere between 1993 and 1998 (see the cartel page on Isostatic Graphite to learn more about the DOJ action).  The Canadian Competition Bureau also imposed fines on manufacturers involved in the actions brought by the EC and the DOJ.

 

Enforcement Highlights:

  • The EC imposed fines of over totaling €51 million on seven companies.
  • The Commission launched its specialty graphite investigation while investigating price-fixing activity in the neighboring market of graphite electrodes. At that time, GrafTech (formally UCAR) revealed information about the anti-competitive practices in the specialty graphite industry.
  • GrafTech International received 100% immunity against fines imposed for being the first to provide evidence and cooperate with the EC's investigation.
  • The European Court of Justice confirmed the findings of the EC in May of 2007 and part of the Court of First Instance’s decision, reducing the fines imposed on SGL Carbon AG from €18.9 million to €9.6 million.  The Court of First Instance determined that the Commission had not correctly calculated the fine and that SGL’s role as ringleader was not as easily distinguishable from that of the other cartel members.
Europe
Company Fine Date
SGL Carbon AG € 18.4 million 12/17/2002
Le Carbone Lorraine SA € 7 million 12/17/2002
Ibiden Co., Ltd. € 3.6 million 12/17/2002
Tokai Carbon Co., Ltd. € 7 million 12/17/2002
Toyo Tanso Co., Ltd. € 10.8 million 12/17/2002
GrafTech International, Ltd. Immunity 12/17/2002
NSCC Techno Carbon Co., Ltd. and Nippon Steel Chemical Co., Ltd. € 3.6 million 12/17/2002
Intech EDM BV and Intech EDM AG € 1 million 12/17/2002