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Shell seeks damages in ethylene cartel case

Petrochemical maker wants $1 billion from four firms named in a 2020 European Commission finding

by Rick Mullin
October 25, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 36


An image (photograph) of detergent bubbles.
Credit: Shutterstock
Clariant uses ethylene in the manufacture of surfactants for cleaning products.

Shell Chemicals Europe has filed a claim for approximately $1 billion in damages in the District Court of Amsterdam against four companies that the European Commission found in 2020 to be operating a buyer’s cartel for ethylene. One of the companies, Clariant, issued a statement rejecting the allegations, claiming that Shell was not one of its ethylene suppliers.

The EC that year found that Clariant, Celanese, Orbia, and Westlake Chemical fixed the price they paid for ethylene in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands between December 2011 and March 2017. Clariant was fined $175 million, Celanese $93 million, and Orbia $25 million.

Westlake would also have been fined for price-fixing had it not alerted the commission to the cartel activities.

“As a supplier of ethylene to the European market, we have a significant claim against the companies that were found by the European Commission to be operating a buyer’s cartel,” Shell says in a statement on its filing. “We have started litigation proceedings against them to recover these substantial damages from the impact their price manipulation has had on our business.”

In a statement responding to Shell’s Oct. 18 filing, Clariant says it “rejects the allegation and will adamantly defend its position in the proceedings.” Clariant adds that it possesses “substantiated economic evidence that the conduct of the parties did not produce any effect on the market.”

Celanese, Orbia, and Westlake did not immediately respond to requests for comment.



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