• Large UK Fine for Unilateral Information Provision
  • April 14, 2010 | Author: Robert Rakison
  • Law Firm: McGuireWoods LLP - London Office
  • Following what appears to have been an "early resolution" (or agreed settlement) of the case, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced on 30 March 2010, that The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is majority owned by the UK state following its 2008 bail out, has agreed to pay a fine of GBP28.59 million after admitting breaches of competition law during 2007 and 2008. The fine was reduced from GBP33.6 million to reflect RBS's admission and agreement to cooperate. The case is yet another reminder of the ease with which provision of commercially sensitive material to a competitor can give rise to serious competition law breaches in the UK, as elsewhere.

    Individuals in RBS's Professional Practices Coverage Team had unilaterally disclosed generic as well as specific confidential future pricing information to their counterparts at Barclays Bank, and this information was taken into account by Barclays in determining its own pricing. The disclosures by RBS took place in the course of contacts on the fringes of social, client or industry events or through phone conversations. The information concerned the pricing of loan products to large professional services firms.

    Barclays reported the infringements voluntarily before an investigation had been launched, thus obtained full immunity from a fine under the OFT's leniency policy.

    There have been a number of previous early resolution cases in the UK. The reduction in the present case, at 15% of what would otherwise apparently have been imposed (GBP33.6 million), is at the lower end of what has previously been obtained in the UK, but higher than the reduction available under a similar procedure available at EU level (10%).

    The OFT has indicated that a formal infringement decision will be published in due course. Third parties will be able to base damages actions on that decision.