United Water Parent Company Fined $10 Million in European Antitrust Investigation By HEZI ARIS
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Washington, D.C. – January 25, 2012 -- The European Commission (EC) has opened formal proceedings to determine whether French water services company Suez Environment has violated European antitrust regulations, according to a press release issued by the European Commission on January 18, 2012.
The Commission has already fined Suez €8 million – approximately U.S. $10.4 million at current exchange rates – for having breached a seal attached to an office door by investigators during a surprise inspection in conjunction with the investigation.
Suez Environment is the parent corporation of U.S.-based United Water. United Water New York, operates in Rockland and parts of Orange County, United Water New Rochelle, in New Yorhelle, United Water Westchester, operates in Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester, Unites Water New Jersey, operates in Bergen and Hudson Counties, and United Water Lambertville and United Water Tomes River operate in Ocean and Hunterdon Counties.
In April 2010, the Commission carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of various companies operating in the French water and wastewater sectors, including Suez subsidiary Lyonnaise des Eaux (LDE). The EC is investigating whether the companies under investigation illegally coordinated their activities in these sectors, especially with respect to elements of prices invoiced to final consumers.
On the second day of the April 2010 inspection, Commission officials discovered that a seal affixed to an office door at LDE headquarters the previous evening had been breached. It is common practice for EC investigators to seal rooms during inspections to prevent the destruction or removal of documents while the inspection team is absent. Breaches of seals are considered serious infringements of European antitrust law, since this undermines the effectiveness of inspections.
Suez Environment admitted that an LDE employee breached the seal, arguing an “unintentional act,” according to the Commission.
On May 24, 2011, the EC announced that it had fined Suez Environment and Lyonnaise des Eaux €8 million for having breached the seal. The Commission’s formal proceeding into alleged antitrust violations by Suez and other companies is continuing.
In the U.S., Suez Environment subsidiary United Water is facing a criminal indictment for allegedly tampering with water quality monitoring tests at a wastewater treatment plant in Gary, Indiana over a five year period between 2003 and 2008. Prosecutors charge that United Water manipulated government-mandated monitoring tests in order to save costs on chlorine used to keep E. coli bacteria concentrations in wastewater discharges from the plant within federal limits.
United Water has pleaded not guilty in the case, which is still under prosecution.
For more information concerning the European Commission’s fine and antitrust investigation concerning Suez Environment, please see the following EC press releases:
SOURCE: The Utility Workers union of America
The Utility Workers Union of America represents working men and women in the utility and related industries throughout the U.S., including United Water employees in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania