Court goes easy on CMA accused: 120 hours of community service for ‘cartel offence’

Courtesy of the Competition & Markets Authority in the United Kingdom

Nigel Snee was today sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 120 hours community service within 12 months.  While the law would have permitted issuance of a monetary fine, he was spared that as well, and likewise is allowed to continue serving as a company director in the future.

The sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court followed a criminal cartel investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Mr Snee, the former Managing Director of Franklin Hodge Industries, had previously pleaded guilty to dishonestly agreeing with others to fix prices, divide up customers and rig bids between 2005 and 2012 in respect of the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage.

The tanks are used to store water for sprinkler systems in buildings.

Mr Snee was arrested in 2012 at the start of an investigation begun by theCMA’s predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading.

Mr Snee cooperated with the investigation and, after pleading guilty to the cartel offence in January 2014, was a witness for the CMA at the subsequent trial of two further individuals, who were acquitted in June. As is usual in such cases, the extent of Mr Snee’s cooperation was reported to the trial judge in order that it could be taken into account in his sentencing decision.

In explaining the approach to sentencing, His Honour Judge Goymer remarked that “the economic damage done by cartels is such that those involved must expect prison sentences”.

The judge indicated that his starting point in this case was that a prison sentence of 2 years was appropriate. Taking into account Mr Snee’s early guilty plea, his personal mitigation and the extent of his voluntary cooperation as a witness, the Judge reduced his sentence by the “higher end” discount of 75%, and concluded that it was appropriate in the circumstances of this case for the resulting 6 month sentence to be suspended.

Bullet point summary:

  1. On 24 June 2015, following a trial at Southwark Crown Court in the same case, two directors, Clive Dean of Kondea Water Supplies Limited and Nicholas Stringer of Galglass Limited, were acquitted of the same charges under section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002.
  2. The case was brought under the law as it applied to conduct before April 2014, under which the cartel offence was only committed where the individuals concerned acted dishonestly. Following a change in the law, for conduct after 1 April 2014, it is no longer necessary for the CMA to prove that individuals acted dishonestly to commit the cartel offence.
  3. The CMA is also currently conducting a related civil investigation into whether businesses have infringed the Competition Act 1998. No assumption should be made at this stage as to whether the Competition Act has been infringed.
  4. The CMA operates a leniency programme for parties who want to admit their involvement in a cartel and also, in certain circumstances, offersfinancial rewards for cartel informants.
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