Mexico regulators to vote on $1 billion fine vs tycoon Slim

Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:57pm EDT
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By Cyntia Barrera

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Regulators are due to vote on Monday on one of Mexico's biggest antitrust cases, a $1 billion fine for tycoon Carlos Slim, which has been bogged down in court appeals and disputes for a year.

Federal competition commission Cofeco slapped Telcel, the cash cow of Slim's giant telecoms company America Movil, with the record sanction in April 2011 after ruling the company charged excessive prices to wireless and wireline competitors to connect to its network.

Telcel appealed the fine and even managed to ban Cofeco's President Eduardo Perez Motta from taking part in a second vote, where the agency will decide if it ratifies, drops or modifies the fine against Slim, the world's richest man.

Perez Motta got into trouble last year with comments he made about the agency's crackdown on Telcel.

The Slim company complained of unfair treatment by Cofeco's chief regulator, filing a motion that cut Perez Motta out of that second vote, which was originally expected in September.

Getting Slim to pay such a large sum would be a major victory for Cofeco, whose ability to enforce the rules in a country where many major industries are concentrated in the hands of a few powerful families is seen as weak.

Cofeco "must ratify last year's fine to Telcel due to multiple violations to the competition law by engaging in monopolistic practices on interconnection," IDET, a telecommunications think-tank based in Mexico City, said in a written statement to Reuters on Sunday.

A loss, or a significantly reduced fine for Telcel, would strengthen the view that regulators in Mexico lack enough muscle to reign in the massive influence of businessmen like Slim.   Continued...

Chairman of Grupo Carso Carlos Slim of Mexico speaks during an interview with Reuters at the ITU Telecom World in Geneva October 24, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse