Exclusive Exclusive: German Sugar Producers Face Dozens of Lawsuits Over Cartel

More than 30 companies have so far filed lawsuits against sugar producers Südzucker, Pfeifer & Langen and Nordzucker for allegedly forming a cartel to push up prices, Handelsblatt has learned. Among the 31 plaintiffs are consumer giants like Nestlé, Müller Milch, Katjes and Lindt & Sprüngli, but also a series of small and medium-sized firms, each suing for a few million euro. The unprecedented series of lawsuits are spread out across Germany: 21 companies have filed suit in Munich, seven in Hanover and three in Cologne. The total damages could run to at least €315 million ($342 million), though more lawsuits are still expected. The companies argue that the three sugar producers met regularly over a number of years to settle prices and divide up regions of the country. Germany’s cartel authority fined the three firms €280 million in 2014, leading many analysts earlier last year to predict that an unprecedented wave of lawsuits would soon follow . The three companies are disputing that their actions had an effect on prices. They also argue that, regardless, companies would not have been damaged by their actions since any price increases are passed on to consumers. One court case, brought by gummy-sweet manufacturer Katjes, will start Friday in Mannheim. The company is seeking €37 million in damages.   Read the full story in Wednesday’s Handelsblatt Global Edition at 12:00 Central European Time.