Cartel Digest

Sorbates

Sorbates
  Overall Cartel Period 1979-1996
  Participants Nippon Gohsei Industries, Ltd.; Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry Ltd.; Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd.; Eastman Chemical Company; Hoechst AG
  Total Fines (DOJ) $132 million
  Total Fines (EC) €138 million

Between 1998 and 2000, regulators in various jurisdictions including the European Commission (“EC”), the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Canadian Competition Bureau (“CCB”) launched probes into manufacturers of sorbates.  Sorbates are chemical preservatives primarily used as mold inhibitors in high-moisture and high-sugar food products such as baked goods, wine and cheese.  According to the DOJ, approximately $200 million worth of sorbates are sold annually worldwide.  The regulators found that, from 1978 to 1996, cartel members agreed to fix prices and allocate volumes of sorbates sold in the European Union, United States and elsewhere.  The cartel members attended meetings two or three times a year to discuss prices for each country and volume allocations.  The DOJ estimates that the cartel influenced nearly $1 billion in commerce in the United States.  

 

Enforcement Highlights:

  • The DOJ imposed fines totaling over $132 million on five companies.  Two executives were also subject to individual fines.
  • The EC imposed fines of over €138 million for the cartel activity. It granted full immunity to one company.
  • The CCB imposed fines of over $7.1 million (CAD).  
Company Conspiracy Period Fine (USD) Plea Date No. of Excluded Individuals Plea Agreement
Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd. 1/79-4/96 $53 million 07/25/2000 N/A  
Hoechst AG 1/79-4/96 $36 million 05/05/1999 N/A  
Nippon Gohsei Industries, Ltd. 1/79-4/96 $21 million 07/14/1999 N/A  
Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry Ltd. 1/79-4/96 $11 million 01/23/2001 N/A  
Eastman Chemical Company 1/95-6/97 $11 million 09/20/1998 N/A  
Solvoy SA 7/98-12/01 $40.9 million 04/20/2006 3  
Individual Company Prison Sentence Fine (USD) Plea Date Plea Agreement
Hitoshi Hayashi, Salesman, Organic Chemicals Division Daicel Chemical Industries Ltd. 3 months $20,000 09/08/2004 Plea Agreement
Bernard Romahn, Marketing Manager of Hoechst's Ingredients Business Unit Hoechst AG None $250,000 05/05/1999  
Hiromi Ito, Marketing and Sales Director of Fine Chemicals Business Department Nippon Gohsei None $350,000 07/14/1999  
Canada
Company Fine Date
Nippon Gohsei Industries, Ltd. $ 100,000 12/18/2002
Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry Ltd. $ 1.2 million 07/30/2001
Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd. $ 2.4 million 09/19/2000
Eastman Chemical Company $ 780,000 10/26/1999
Hoechst AG $ 2.5 million 10/26/1999
Europe
Company Fine Date
Chisso Corp. Immunity 10/01/2003
Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd. € 16.6 million 10/01/2003
Hoechst AG € 99 million 10/01/2003
The Nippon Synthetic Chemical Industry Co, Ltd. € 10.5 million 10/01/2003
Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry Ltd. € 12.3 million 10/01/2003
Canada
Individual Company Prison Sentence Fine Date
Yoshiyuki Ebara, Assistant Manager Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry Ltd. $ 150,000
Takayasu Miyasaka, Director of Organic Chemicals Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd. $ 250,000