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Personal Liability for Directors regarding Price Fixing
The Competition and Markets Authority has just announced the disqualification of a further three directors involved in price collusion.
Back in March this year, we reported on fines totalling £7 million imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority on five companies who had operated a cartel within the office fit-out market (you can see the update here). These companies had colluded over prices in bidding for potential contracts to fit out and design offices. In May, as a consequence of the CMA investigation, three directors of companies involved in the cartel were subjected to disqualification orders for various periods of time.
The CMA has just announced that it has now secured the disqualification of a further three directors of one of the companies involved in the cartel. Clive Lucking, the founder and CEO of Fourfront Group, was involved in ten breaches of the law affecting contracts with a total value of nearly £12 million; Aki Stamatis, the Chairman of Fourfront contributed to one breach and took no steps to avoid the other nine even though he ought to have known about them and Sion Davies failed to prevent three of the breaches in relation to contracts worth £8.6 million.
Lucking has been disqualified for 4 years and 9 months, Stamatis for 2 years and 9 months and Davies for 18 months. All three initially refused to give disqualification undertakings but did so after the CMA started court proceedings to force disqualification. As a result, the disqualifications are for longer periods than would have been the case had the three individuals co-operated at the outset of the investigation.
The CMA has previously highlighted its clear intention to clamp down on breaches of competition law and these disqualifications bring the total number of disqualifications for illegal cartel behaviour to 12 since December 2016 when the CMA began actively to use its powers.
This case is yet another reminder of the need for businesses to comply with competition law and of the need for directors or business owners personally to ensure compliance.