Westlake Village-based Dole Food Co. said it will appeal to Europe’s highest court after a lower-court decision that upholds a $59.8 million fine levied by the European Union over allegations that the fresh fruit company colluded with German banana importers to fix prices.
The decision, issued by the E.U.’s General Court, upheld the fine of €45.6 million, or about $59.8 million. The fine stemmed from what regulators described as anti-competitive information exchanges between Dole’s European arm and other banana importers in Europe’s largest economy more than a decade ago.
“The General Court’s decision treats discussions about general market conditions the same as a price fixing cartel,” Michael Carter, Dole’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We strongly believe that the European competition laws were not violated and we will appeal this decision to the EU Court of Justice.”
The court decision comes after Dole considerably downsized its global operations by selling off its Asian fresh food business for $1.7 billion to Itochu Corp. of Japan. The company recently reported a fourth-quarter loss and said its full-year pre-tax earnings are likely to be at the bottom end of its guidance range.