Competition Currents February 2021: Mexico
COFECE fines “Eco Comercializadora” for false statement during probe of cartel conduct in gas service stations in Baja, California.
The Mexican Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE) determined that “Eco Comercializadora” (EC) made false statements while being investigated for cartel conduct in the gasoline marketing industry in several municipalities. COFECE fined the company 9,873,000 pesos (US$450,000.00).
In August 2020, COFECE fined several companies and individuals for colluding in the gasoline marketing industry in the same geographic areas. Upon review of several filings, COFECE noticed an inconsistency between the information provided by EC during the probe and the information provided by Grupo Eco (the economic interest group of which EC is a part) during a follow-up procedure.
The Commission said that EC did not report changes to the company’s names and timely shareholding structure of all the companies in its group timely, even though this information had to be updated immediately during the investigation. EC’s failure to update the file affected the enforcement powers of COFECE and the decision-making ability of the Investigating Authority. EC’s actions prevented the Investigating Authority from determining whether to subpoena even one entity that likely participated in the cartel.
Because EC failed to provide information timely, the Investigating Authority wasted time and resources investigating dissolved entities, which could not legally be charged. COFECE notified the Attorney General to determine if the EC’s actions warranted further legal proceedings.
Seven banks and traders receive a minor fine in price-rigging case in the peso bond market.
COFECE concluded an investigation into potential collusion by banks in central-bank auctions involving sales of debt securities issued by the Mexican government. The investigators said they found evidence in electronic chats from 2010 to 2013 of cartel behavior, proving that the banks and traders manipulated prices and established obligations not to trade and/or not to acquire certain government securities in specific transactions. The manipulation had a direct impact on the price of the debt securities in the secondary market.
COFECE stated that investors suffered US$1.4 million in damages. Seven banks were fined a combined 29.4 million pesos (US$1.4 million) out of a potential total range of fines of up to 680 million pesos. Eleven traders were fined a total of 5.7 million pesos out of a possible range of fines up to 108.5 million pesos (US$250,000). The decision has been criticized by the specialized media and the federal government and can be challenged before antitrust specialized federal court.
Edoardo Gambaro, Yuji Ogiwara, Stephen M. Pepper, Gillian Sproul, Hans Urulus, Dawn (Dan) Zhang, Mari Arakawa, Filip Drgas, Simon Harms, Marta Kowanacka, Pietro Missanelli, Massimiliano Pizzonia, Anna Rajchert, Jose Abel Rivera-Pedroza, Ippei Suzuki and Rebecca Tracy Rotem also contributed to this article.