Fender Europe has been fined GBP 25,000 for hiding documents during a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inspection. It appears that a a “senior officer” had concealed notebooks during an inspection of its East Grinstead, UK offices.
In case you’ve not been following this story, this is part of an ongoing CMA investigation I wrote about in May last year about allegations of price fixing by Fender, Roland, Korg and Yamaha. (Any company found to be involved in price-fixing activity can be fined up to 10% of its global turnover. Ouch!)
According to a statement from Fender, a “single former UK-based employee acted without Fender’s knowledge” had hidden the documents during the inspection at Fender’s UK office. Fender Europe then later voluntarily handed over the notebooks three weeks after Competition and Markets Authority the inspection had taken place. The CMA has stated that “no assumption should be made that Fender Europe has been involved in anti-competitive behaviour” as the investigation is still at an early stage.
Commenting on the fine, Ann Pope, the CMA’s Senior Director of Antitrust said:
This fine sends a very clear signal to companies that they need to comply fully with their legal obligations when the CMA conducts investigations. Hiding documents is a serious matter and the decision to issue Fender Europe with a fine reflects this. When companies conceal evidence, or illegally obstruct our investigations, it makes it harder for the CMA to protect consumers.
Fender’s Official Statement
Fender has issued the following official statement via its EMEA spokesperson:
We are disappointed to be fined for the actions of a single former UK-based employee who acted without Fender’s knowledge.
We do not condone such behaviour and are pleased that the Competition and Markets Authority recognised that, upon Fender becoming aware of the individual’s actions, we immediately investigated, located the documents and supplied them.
Obviously, this whole investigation is a debacle for the US guitar manufacturer and the other firms under scrutiny, and may yet have serious financial implications for all the companies involved. I’ll keep you all informed as and when more information becomes available. For now you can follow my link below to the official details provided by the CMA.