Without the help of big government on some level, this asphalt paving cartel could never have come into existence.
Anytime a monopoly/cartel forms, the hand of government is a major contributing factor, whether through sweetheart deals, turning a blind eye or creating legislation that cripples start up competition (cronyism). Left to itself, the free market takes care of supply and demand, good and bad business decisions which includes pricing.
The long-running case on the cartel behaviour of asphalt companies has come to an end with the Helsinki Court of Appeal slapping four companies with nearly 35 million euros in damages.
The four companies of seven involved in a price-fixing scam were ordered to pay damages to the state and dozens of municipalities. Infrastructure firm Lemminkäinen was judged to be the leader of the cartel and received the largest penalty of some 20 million euros.
The asphalt cartel operated between 1994 and 2002.
Initially the Finnish state and municipalities had called for the courts to award damages of 120 million euros. Three years ago the Helsinki District Court ordered seven companies to pay over 37 million euros of damages to 38 municipalities.
The case has dragged on for over four years, and is one of largest damages trials in Finnish legal history.