Tidbits from Luxembourg
With a group of LL.M. students from Liège, we attended last Wednesday the hearing at the General Court in Chimei InnoLux Corp v Commission (T-91/11).
This case is better known as the LCD panels cartel case. In a nutshell, Chimei InnoLux challenges a Commission infringement decision inflicting a €300,000,000 fine. Chimei seeks primarily to obtain a reduction of this fine. Its key argument is that the Commission could not include in the value of the sales used to calculate the fines, the so-called “Direct EEA sales through transformed products“, namely sales of cartelised LCD panels incorporated into finished products (screens) by downstream Chimei subsidiaries located outside the EEA. According to Chimei, those internal sales were outside the juridictional reach of EU competition law (the parties rely on Woodpulp).
On this occasion, we also had several most informative meetings with several people working at the GC and the CJ. Here’s a grab bag of impressions following this trip at the Court:
- It’s all about the facts => once again, I was amazed by the granularity of the arguments raised in proceedings before the General Court;
- G. Berardis, the juge rapporteur was just impressive. He was very picky, seemed to know the file inside out, and asked a gazillion questions to the parties. On several occasions, the parties had a tough time responding to his inquiries. External observers, like myself, often pass judgment on the intensity of judicial scrutiny just by reading judgments. I guess my views have slightly changed since last Wednesday. Judicial review is also about what happens in the Court’s room, and about how judges discharge their duties. Whilst I have, a few weeks ago, voiced concerns about the appointment of a former Commission official as judge at the GC, I also recognize that such appointments probably come with increased expertise, and in turn contribute to strenghtening the intensity of judicial review. The trade-off between impartial and efficient judicial review is clearly a complex one;
- Read Wouter Wils! We’ve praised Wouter’s papers on many occasions. But we did not know that his prose was that influential. In response to a question on the compatibility of administrative proceedings with Article 6 ECHR, someone working at the General Court said something close too: “we know there is a big debate over this issue in scholarship. I read Wouter Wils’ papers. Wils considers that there are no such problems. So my conclusion is that there are no problems“;
- Internal drafting guidelines: judges and référendaires are apparently requested not to quote any piece of scholarship, or at least to limit such quotes;
- And to conclude: rumour has it that the draft Intel judgment is approx. 700 pages long (double spaced)…
Overall, this was a great day in Court.