16 March 2006 17:55 [Source: ICIS news]
By Joe Kamalick
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Global chemical firms can anticipate a widening of US federal antitrust prosecutions for price-fixing over the next several years as they leverage amnesty deals into more investigations and charges.
US legal authorities describe the ever-widening circle of investigations and prosecutions as similar to a nuclear chain reaction.
Perhaps triggered by a whistle-blower or a competitor, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will pursue one company on price-fixing charges and offer executives of that targeted firm a choice: An amnesty deal in which the company confesses to price-fixing violations, pays a hefty fine and helps DoJ pursue other conspirators - or a full-blown federal prosecution, trial and perhaps serious jail time for top executives on conviction.
It is not a choice most companies have to think about for very long.
The effect is nuclear, according to ?xml:namespace>
This week the DoJ announced that
Almost certainly other companies will be charged.
Separately, Bayer Material Sciences, Dow Chemical and BASF Corp have confirmed that they have received DoJ subpoenas regarding alleged antitrust activities by polyurethane chemicals producers. There have been no charges or allegations of wrong doing.
Hartwell, who has defended chemical companies and executives in antitrust cases, said the Justice Department’s long-running series of chemical industry investigations might continue for several years. “The series of investigations is being driven by incentives that DoJ amnesty policies create for both companies and individuals caught up in these probes,” Hartwell said.
Citing DoJ investigations, settlements and convictions in rubber chemicals, monochloroacetic acid (MCAA), aliphatic polyester polyols, plastics additives, bromines and pharmaceuticals since 2000, Hartwell said: “The pattern has repeated itself over the years in the chemicals industry, and the amnesty policy has enabled DoJ to walk across multiple product lines in these investigations.”
Once the feds are finished with conspirator companies, he noted, those companies typically face civil litigation in which their customers seek compensation and punitive damages for inflated chemicals prices.
“This might well continue for several more years,” Hartwell said.
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
|ICIS news FREE TRIAL|
|Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index|
Asian Chemical Connections