Sussex

Fender Europe fined £25,000 after employee hid notebooks

A Fender Custom Shop '59 Stratocaster electric guitar and Fender Pro Junior IV Ltd Edition combo amplifier Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Fender Custom Shop '59 Stratocaster electric guitar and Fender Pro Junior IV Ltd Edition combo amplifier

A guitar manufacturer has been fined £25,000 after an employee hid notebooks related to an ongoing investigation.

Fender Europe, based in West Sussex, is under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over suspected breaches of competition law.

During an inspection in April 2018 a senior staff member said the notebooks had been destroyed, but it later emerged the employee had hidden them.

A Fender Europe spokesman said it did not condone the employee's behaviour.

When the inspectors visited they were given some notebooks and diaries from the recent past, but nothing more historic.

In its report the CMA said the staff member at the East Grinstead base told inspectors he had disposed of all his old notebooks.

Three weeks later Fender Europe notified the CMA that 10 old notebooks had been found.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Fender Europe's head office in East Grinstead

It emerged the staff member had removed the notebooks from Fender Europe's premises during the inspection, and told a junior employee to store them at his home, the CMA report said.

Fender Europe became aware of this when the staff member made a passing remark to a colleague, and it immediately seized the books.

The employee no longer works for the company, which made £1.2m in profit after tax in 2017.

The books were found to be relevant to the CMA's investigation, but it did not enforce the full fine of £30,000 as Fender Europe "took steps to remedy the breach".

A Fender Europe spokesman said: "We are disappointed to be fined for the actions of a single former UK-based employee who acted without Fender's knowledge. We do not condone such behaviour."

Ann Pope, a senior director at the CMA, said: "This fine sends a very clear signal to companies that they need to comply fully with their legal obligations when the CMA conducts investigations."

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