After the allegations of a beer cartel formation due to the statute of limitations were initially settled, Carlsberg Deutschland and its former CEO Wolfgang Burgard are now being brought to court again. The first hearing is scheduled for August 27. They are threatened by fines of EUR 250 million for Carlsberg and EUR 300,000 for Burgard.
The procedure, which concerns an alleged price agreement from 2007 and was uncovered through a leniency procedure with AB InBev Germany, has been dragging on for a very long time.
At the end of 2013, the German Federal Cartel Office imposed fines totaling EUR 338 million on 11 breweries, one association (Brewery Association NRW) and 14 private individuals for illegal price fixing. The accused denied the existence of a beer cartel. However in order to avoid negative press, a handful of companies, including Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins, Warsteiner and Barre sought a direct settlement with the authorities and accepted fines totaling EUR 106.5 million. Others like Carlsberg Deutschland and Radeberger Gruppe opposed the claim. (inside.beer, 19.2.2018)
In June 2018, one day before the trial started, also Radeberger Gruppe withdrew its appeal and accepted the fine (inside.beer, 13.6.2018). The only major brewing group to resist in its fight against the sentence of the Cartel Office was Carlsberg Deutschland GmbH, the German subsidiary of the Danish beer giant, and its former managing director Wolfgang Burgard.
The trials began on June 13, 2018 but by judgment of April 3, 2019, the 4th Cartel Senate discontinued the proceedings unexpectedly due to the statute of limitations. (inside.beer, 3.4.2019) However, on July 13, 2020 the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) overturned this decision and restarted the trial.
Therefore, the case is now being tried again in a new main hearing before the 6th Cartel Senate of the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court. The main hearing serves to clarify whether the German Federal Cartel Office's allegations are true or not. The Attorney General recently demanded a fine of EUR 250 million from Carlsberg. This corresponded to a quadrupling of the original cartel fine of EUR 62 million. Burgard should also pay more - namely 300,000 euros. The Cartel Senate emphasizes, however, that the presumption of innocence also applies in the fine proceedings.