Why Shareholders Should Not Share the Blame in the EU

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Stephen Kinsella, Anouck Meier, Nov 12, 2009

Should an independent shareholder which is not itself a party to an antitrust infringement be held liable for the misconduct of a company it jointly owns? The question might raise eyebrows of practitioners in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, where corporate separateness prevails as a general rule and the proverbial corporate veil can be pierced only as an “extreme remedy.” For European counsel and their clients, however, the question has become highly relevant and any nervousness on their part seems justified. The European Commission ( Commission ) seems to have adopted an ever-expanding theory of “liability by association. In addition to parents of wholly-owned subsidiaries and partners in general partnerships, shareholders in jointly-owned companies increasingly find themselves in the line of fire.