Sentencing in Ireland's First Bid-Rigging Cartel Case: An Appraisal
The paper argues that the sentences imposed on 31 May 2107 by the Central Criminal Court in the commercial flooring bid-rigging cartel case and the methodology used in setting those sentences seriously undermines the effective enforcement of competition law in Ireland. The sentence imposed on the individual responsible for initiating and participating for 2 years and 4 months in the bid-rigging cartel was only three weeks wages or €7,500. No gaol sentence was imposed. The undertaking was fined €10,000; the value of the rigged tenders it won totalled €556,000. The Court’s reasoning did not justify the low sanctions. Current sentencing norms indicate a custodial sentence and much higher fines for both the individual and the undertaking. This is consistent with the application of EU and US Sentencing Guidelines to the facts of the commercial flooring bid-rigging cartel case. If the sentences imposed by the Central Criminal Court are not successfully appealed as being unduly lenient and appropriate sentencing guidelines developed, then the prospect for competition law enforcement in Ireland is grim. In particular, the effectiveness of the Cartel Immunity Programme, a vital tool for cartel detection and prosecution, will be severely damaged.
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