Supreme Court of Justice upholds bid rigging fine
On June 23, 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina upheld a Court of Appeals decision and confirmed a 2005 bid rigging fine imposed by the Secretary of Trade to medical oxygen providers Air Liquide Argentina S.A., Praxair Argentina S.A., AGA Argentina S.A., and Indura Argentina S.A.
In July 2005, the former Secretary of Technical Coordination, based on the report prepared by the CNDC, sanctioned the above-mentioned oxygen medical companies with a fine totaling AR$70.3 million (approximately US$7.7 million at the current exchange rate) for allegedly colluding their tender offers for the provision of medical oxygen to private and public hospitals between 1997 and 2002.
Said sanction was appealed by the medical oxygen companies, but was upheld by the Court of Appeals on August 10, 2012, this is, more than seven years after the fine was imposed. In its turn, the medical oxygen companies filed a new appeal against the affirming decision from the Court of Appeals, alleging that such decision was null and void since it infringed the 5-year statute of limitations set forth in the Antitrust Law.
The Supreme Court affirmed and stated that the statute of limitations was not applicable since the Court of Appeals’ ruling was adopted in a “reasonable term” pursuant to section 8.1 of the American Convention for Human Rights (applicable since this and other international treaties have a constitutional status in Argentina). The rest of the arguments included in the parties’ appeals were also rejected without explanation since the Supreme Court considered that matters under appeal were insubstantial, lacked of sufficient relevance and posed no sufficient federal grievance.
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