European Commission Raids Offices of BMW, Daimler and VW

German officials suspect BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen conspired to violate antitrust laws.

Posted in News

— BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen aren't making any fans in their home country of Germany as the European Commission said it paid a visit to BMW's offices on October 16 as the beginning legal salvo in an investigation into violations of EU antitrust rules concerning cartels and business practices.

BMW was quick to admit the raid was over potential violations of antitrust laws, but allegedly had nothing to do with accusations of "illegal manipulation of exhaust gas treatment."

BMW management and employees got a surprise visit at their German headquarters when investigators raided offices as part of an official investigation into antitrust violations. German investigators are looking for evidence that BMW conspired with other German automakers, including Daimler and Volkswagen.

The alleged conspiracy involves the three companies working together to keep prices down for equipment and technology, including technology related to emissions systems.

European antitrust investigators have been researching the issue since July, something that caused Daimler to basically admit guilt by offering to work with the investigators. Daimler is allegedly worried about the amount of penalties it could receive, so the automaker offered to give investigators evidence in exchange for leniency.

Time will prove how well that strategy works for Daimler as its offices, as well as Volkswagen's offices, were raided after BMW had official visitors. In addition to investigators from the European Commission, other German officials joined in the search for evidence of anti-competitive practices among the automakers.

German automakers, although competitors, admit they have met together for years to combine minds about technical aspects of components and parts. But investigators are concerned about those meetings and if the companies worked out agreements to make their business less competitive.

In addition, German officials suspect the automakers may have routinely met to discuss how effective the emissions systems of German vehicles should be.

Daimler was quick to talk because the automaker has already paid a huge penalty to settle cartel allegations. In 2016, Daimler paid nearly $1.2 billion to the European Commission after being charged with participating in a cartel run by truck manufacturers.