In summer 2023, the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf ruled that board members and managing directors are not personally liable for fines imposed on a company.

The Decision of the OLG Düsseldorf

The case in question concerned recourse claims by two stainless steel companies against their former board member due to his involvement in a stainless steel cartel.

After official investigations revealed that a board member of both companies had been involved in the exchange of competitively sensitive information for several years, the German Federal Cartel Office imposed a fine of EUR 4.1 million on one of the companies. In addition, a further fine was imposed personally on the board member himself.

Besides the reimbursement of the fine, the suing companies also demanded compensation for the legal defense costs incurred in connection with the fine proceedings.

The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf rejected the recourse claims of the companies against their managing director in its entirety and, with regard to the fine imposed on one of the companies, determined that recourse against the acting body was not eligible.

The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf justified its decision by stating that in the alternative the assessment under antitrust law would be

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