December 1, 2022

European Commission settles styrene monomer cartel for € 157 million

The European Commission has fined five chemical companies for their role in a styrene monomer purchasing cartel.  Styrene is used in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, latex and some resins.  According to the European Commission, six companies exchanged sensitive commercial information and coordinated their dealings, using an industry reference price and working together to lower the purchase price of styrene monomer.  One company, INEOS, received immunity from the penalty for having revealed the cartel to EU authorities.

The European Commission found that the companies had committed a single and continuous infringement in the European Economic Area between May 2012 and June 2018, although each company admitted to participating in the cartel for specific segments of that period.  The companies’ conduct was deemed to have infringed Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 53 of the European Economic Area Agreement, which prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.

In assessing the fine for each company, the European Commission granted cooperation credit (leniency) and a graduated reduction in the fine amount to Sunpor (30%), Synthomer (20%), Synthos (40%) and Trinseo (20%) pursuant to the 2006 Leniency Notice published by the Commission, and, as noted above, 100% credit (immunity) to INEOS.  Synbra did not apply for leniency.  All of the settling companies received a 10% credit pursuant to the Commission’s 2008 Settlement Notice in light of their admission to participating in the cartel and their acknowledgment of liability therefor as part of the Commission’s settlement process.

The fines imposed by the Commission are:


€ 0


€ 32 505 000


€ 31 720 000


€ 32 621 000


€ 43 011 000


€ 17 215 000


The complete settlement decision is not yet available to the public, pending the companies’ completion of a version that does not expose business secrets or confidential information.  It will be available under Case No. AT.40547 here when a non-confidential version has been finalized.

EC press release