Keltbray to appeal ‘excessive’ bid rigging fine

By Steve Ducker27 March 2023

One of the companies fined as a result of the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into big rigging in demolition contracts has described its punishment as “excessive when compared to its level of involvement” and says it will appeal against the decision.

Keltbray, whose head office is in Esher in the south of England, was one of 10 companies fined a total of almost £60 million (US$73.92 million).

Darren James, CEO, Keltbray Darren James, CEO, Keltbray (Photo: Keltbray)

The £16 million ($19.71 million) fine issued to Keltbray was the second highest imposed on any of the 10 companies. In its announcement, the CMA said that Keltbray was one of eight companies who “were handed reduced fines as settling parties who had, as announced in June last year, admitted their involvement in cartel activity.”

In a statement posted on its website after the fines were announced on 23 March, Keltbray said: ”The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today confirmed the findings of its investigation into the historical activities of a number of undertakings in the UK demolition industry. The ten undertakings included Keltbray Limited, a wound down subsidiary of the Keltbray Group.

“Keltbray strongly condemns anti-competitive practices and fully cooperated with the regulator’s enquiries throughout the investigation and agreed to settle. For the avoidance of doubt, this investigation related to civil infringements of the UK competition regime. Significantly, Keltbray was not one of the firms involved in compensation arrangements in relation to those contracts affected by the infringing activity.

“As part of today’s announcement, the CMA has indicated the level of financial penalty which it intends to impose on each undertaking as a result of the competition law breaches, based on its assessment of a number of factors including historic Group turnover. As a result, the CMA intends to impose a financial penalty of £16 million on Keltbray.

“As today’s release by the CMA has highlighted, Keltbray did not instigate any infringement activity or benefit financially from the infringements, and therefore believes the intended penalty is excessive when compared to Keltbray’s level of involvement, particularly when compared to the malpractices of other organisations who did benefit financially from their activities. Keltbray is therefore disappointed with the level of penalty which the CMA intends to impose on it and will be appealing that decision. The penalty was referenced in the Group’s 2021 financial statements and the directors do not currently believe it necessary to revisit the amount provided.”

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren James said: “We strongly condemn anti-competitive practices and treat all matters that reflect on our compliance with statutory obligations with the utmost gravity. Keltbray has cooperated fully with the CMA throughout this inquiry relating to activities between 2009 and 2017.

“Since that time, much has changed. Keltbray today is a very different organisation with the necessary controls and independent oversight in place, following the early adoption of the Wates Corporate Governance Principles for large, private companies, to ensure these isolated events could never reoccur.

“The reported CMA penalty is based on Keltbray’s total group turnover, rather than the actual level of culpability relevant to the wound down subsidiary. Keltbray is a large, highly diversified business, with demolition representing a small proportion of total revenues. Keltbray will be appealing today’s penalty decision.”

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