Hoechst pleads guilty, gets fined $12 million

Hoechst Aktiengesellschaft has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $12 million fine for its participation in a conspiracy that suppressed competition in the world markets for monochloroacetic acid (MCAA).

In a one-count felony case filed in US District Court in San Francisco, Hoechst was charged with fixing prices and allocating market shares of MCAA sold in the US and elsewhere from September 1995 until June 1997.

Hoechst will be the third company to plead guilty to participating in this conspiracy. In Hoechst’s plea agreement, which requires court approval, the company has agreed to pay a $12 million fine and to co-operate fully with the ongoing federal investigation of anticompetitive behaviour in the MCAA market.

In June 2001, the Dutch chemical giant Akzo Nobel Chemicals BV pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $12 million fine for its involvement in this conspiracy. Elf Atochem of France pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy and was fined $5 million in March 2002.

The charge against Hoechst was brought under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum fine of $10 million for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum.

The charge stems from continuing investigations being conducted by the US Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Field Office and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco.