Commission should have included interview with Dell exec in Intel case file

EU watchdog criticises investigation into Intel

A watchdog has found the European Commission guilty of “maladministration” in its investigation into Intel, which culminated in a fine of over $1bn for the component giant earlier this year.

The European Ombudsman, watchdog for the European Union, is set to announce that EU officials committed “maladministration” by failing to submit “potentially exculpatory” documents in the case, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has seen a copy of the as-yet unpublished report.

Intel was fined a record $1.45bn for market abuse in May for offering illegal rebates in order to oust competitor AMD from the European market.

The chipmaker has since launched an appeal against the fine and filed a counter-suit with the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that the EU did not ensure a fair hearing.

The ombudsman, P Nikiforos Diamandouros, reportedly said the European Commission should have recorded a formal account of an August 2006 meeting between investigators and a senior Dell executive who was providing evidence in the case.

According to the WSJ, the unnamed executive told investigators that Dell believed AMD’s performance as “very poor", suggesting that Dell chose Intel chips for legitimate technical reasons. Because there is no formal record of the meeting in the case file, it is unclear exactly what was said and what time period the executive was referring to. Dell did, in fact, begin selling products with AMD chips later that year.

According to Diamandouros’ report, the commission claimed that it had the authority to judge what should be considered exculpatory evidence, and that information from the Dell executive may have duplicated material elsewhere in the case file.

The ombudsman found that the commission’s discretion was not that far-reaching and that, at the time of the meeting, some information provided by the executive was not already in the file.

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