In 2011, CDC filed in The Hague, the Netherlands, a legal action enforcing claims for damages resulting from the Europe-wide paraffin wax cartel. Previously, CDC had acquired the claims from eight purchasers of paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is mainly used for candle production but has also a wide range of applications in packaging, cosmetics, construction and food industry.
Background – European Paraffin Wax Cartel
On 1 October 2008, the European Commission found that ENI, ExxonMobil, Hansen & Rosenthal/Tudapetrol, MOL, Repsol, Sasol, Shell, RWE, and Total had participated in Europe-wide paraffin wax cartel from at least 1992 to 2005. In more than 50 meetings across Europe, hundreds of letters, faxes and emails the cartel members fixed target prices and monitored their implementation, allocated customers as well as market shares and exchanged commercially sensitive Information.
According to the European Commission, the overall plan was to reduce and prevent competition on prices in order to stabilise or raise prices by agreeing on minimum prices and price increases. The cartel members aimed at reducing or even eliminating competition with the ultimate goal of achieving higher profits. Four groups acknowledged their participation in the cartel and cooperated with the Commission under its leniency program. The Commission imposed fines of more than EUR 676 million on all groups of companies.
CDC’s damage action
In September 2011, CDC filed an action for damages resulting from the Paraffin Wax cartel against ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and Sasol. The lawsuit was brought in The Hague, the Netherlands. CDC purchased the damage claims essentially of candle producers, with production sites in five European countries. The detailed transaction data collected by CDC from the damaged companies together with other market data showed that the cartel resulted in significant price overcharges. These findings were confirmed by external economic experts. The total damage including interest claimed by CDC was over EUR 100 million. The Hague Court by judgment of 12 December 2014 confirmed its competence, the validity of the claims assignments and the applicable laws.
In June 2015, as evident from Sasol’s public reporting, CDC achieved an out-of-court settlement and subsequently withdrew the action against Sasol. In 2017, CDC after further settlements withdrew the action against the remaining defendants.