Anti-monopoly cases rise in down cycle – US industry lawyer

11 June 2009 19:56  [Source: ICIS news]

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (ICIS news)--The number of anti-monopoly cases tends to rise during downturns in the business cycle, and US chemical companies must keep their guard up to avoid even the suspicion of misbehaviour, an industry lawyer said on Thursday.

Dell Perelman, general counsel for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), also warned that governments in the US and Europe continue to regard the chemical sector as a worthy target for scrutiny.

The last chemical sector down cycle in the early part of the decade had been marked by a number of such cases, he said.

Perelman made the remarks while reiterating anti-monopoly (known in the US as anti-trust) guidance to ACC members attending the group's annual meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The meeting has brought together around 330 senior members of the industry from more than 100 companies, including many chief executives.

Most of their time was being spent in closed meetings or on the three golf courses that are part of The Broadmoor resort, where the event was being held.

Those social meetings were equally under the spotlight as business meetings, the lawyer stressed.

Perelman did not mention any specific markets of companies that were attracting regulatory attention.

He noted that there has never been an anti-trust issue arising from an ACC annual meeting in the event's more than 100 years.

There have been no significant US anti-trust convictions directly involving chemical companies for several years, although, earlier this week Solvay paid $2.1m (€1.5m) to settle a private US lawsuit alleging price fixing for hydrogen peroxide.

The Belgian producer did not admit to the allegation, though.

In 2006, the US Department of Justice gave a rare confirmation of an anti-trust investigation, saying it was looking into the polyurethanes market.

That unusual move came after Dow Chemical, Bayer Material Sciences, BASF and Lyondell (as that company was called at the time) confirmed they had been subpoenaed.

The current status of that probe is unknown.

($1 = €0.72)

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By: Stephen Burns
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