Intel appeals European Commission fine

When you get fined $1.45 billion and end up posting your first quarterly loss in over two decades as a result, you don't just take it on the chin. Indeed, as San Jose Mercury News reports, Intel has filed an appeal with the European Union's Court of First Instance.

Intel hasn't made the appeal document public. However, spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the appeal alleges that the fine is excessive, that the European Commission refused to consider evidence favorable to Intel, and that the action "was improper under European human rights law."

Wait a minute... human rights law? A separate article from the Wall Street Journal sheds some light on that particular allegation:

A growing list of companies are raising the charge that the EU's vigorous antitrust watchdog is running afoul of protections afforded by European human-rights law. The companies argue they have a right to have their case heard in a court instead of an administrative body.

When the EU's antitrust body handles a case, it both investigates and renders judgment. The companies say they don't have a full opportunity to defend themselves against the charges, as they would in a court.

While fines against Microsoft and Intel might have generated the most press, European firms are also suffering the Commission's wrath.  According to a Telegraph story, the Commission fined France's Saint-Gobain €896 million ($1.3 billion) in 2008, Germany's ThyssenKrupp €480 million ($683 million) the year before, and Switzerland's Hoffmann-La Roche €462 million ($657 million) back in 2001. The WSJ says Saint-Goban is also making the human rights claim, as is Switzerland's Schindler Holding, which was fined €147 million ($209 million) in 2007.

According to the WSJ, defense lawyers claim having the Competition Commissioner be judge, jury, and executioner "was appropriate four decades ago, when the EU began handing out relatively small fines . . . but outmoded in an era in which nine-figure penalties are common."

Either way, Intel still has to pay the fine for now, and Mercury News says the Court of First Instance will take "up to two years" to consider the appeal.

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