Cartel Digest

Sodium Gluconate

Sodium Gluconate
  Overall Cartel Period 1987-1995
  Participants Akzo Nobel Chemicals B.V.; Glucona B.V.; Roquette Frères; Jungbunzlauer International A.G.; Haarmann & Reimer Corporation
  Total Fines (DOJ) $30.4 million
  Total Fines (EC) €57.2 million

In 1997, the European Commission (“EC”), U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Canadian Competition Bureau (“CCB”) launched investigations into anti-competitive business practices among sodium gluconate manufacturers.  Sodium gluconate is a chemical mainly used to clean metal and glass, with applications such as bottle washing, utensil cleaning and surface treatment.  The investigations revealed a price-fixing conspiracy from 1987 to 1995 wherein the companies held regular meetings in places including London, Paris, Hakone, Chicago and Vancouver to agree on individual sales quotas, fixed “minimum” and “target” prices and shared out specific customers.  Sodium gluconate sales reached €18 million annually in the European Economic Area and $10.2 million CAD in Canada during the period of infringement and is a $50 million a year industry worldwide.  Two companies and several of their executives pled guilty to price-fixing charges brought by the DOJ in 1997 and 1998, and in 2001 the EC issued a decision imposing fines on six companies for violations of the European Union’s competition laws.  The CCB also imposed fines on five companies involved in the cartel.

 

Enforcement Highlights

  • The EC imposed over €57 million in fines.
  • The DOJ imposed over $30 million in fines on companies and executives.
  • Fujisawa received an 80% reduction of its fine from the EC for being the first to supply the EC with decisive evidence of the cartel before the EC's surprise investigations.
  • The EC’s 2001 decision was withdrawn as to Jungbunzlauer AG due to a factual mistake but was readopted with regard to the company in 2004 with a €1.36 million reduced fine.  Jungbunzlauer initially sought to have this decision annulled in the European Court of Justice but withdrew that application. 
Company Conspiracy Period Fine (USD) Plea Date No. of Excluded Individuals Plea Agreement
Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. 8/93-6/95 $20 million 02/25/1998 N/A  
Akzo Nobel Chemicals BV and Glucona BV 8/93-6/95 $10 million 09/24/1997 N/A  
Individual Company Prison Sentence Fine (USD) Plea Date Plea Agreement
Akira Nakao, Associate Executive Director of Chemicals Division Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. None $200,000 02/25/1998  
Cornelis R. Nederveen, General Manager of Glucona partnership Akzo Nobel Chemicals BV and Glucona BV None $100,000 09/24/1997  
Marcel L. van Eekhout, Managing Director of Glucona Akzo Nobel Chemicals BV and Glucona BV None $100,000 09/24/1997  
Canada
Company Fine Date
Akzo Nobel Chemicals B.V. $ 350,000 07/23/1999
Glucona B.V. $ 350,000 07/23/1999
Roquette Frères S.A. $ 700,000 05/25/1999
Jungbunzlauer International A.G. $ 100,000 10/21/1998
Haarmann & Reimer Corporation $ 4.7 million 10/21/1998
Europe
Company Fine Date
Archer Daniels Midland Co. € 10.1 million 03/19/2002
Akzo Nobel NV € 9 million 03/19/2002
Avebe BA € 3.6 million 03/19/2002
Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. € 3.6 million 03/19/2002
Roquette Frères S.A. € 10.8 million 03/19/2002
Jungbunzlauer AG € 19 million 03/19/2002