Vitamin makers settle price-fixing lawsuit for $442 million

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Six foreign vitamin companies agreed to pay $335 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to fix prices.

The lawsuit alleged the companies, which produce vitamin pills and supplements for fortified foods and agricultural feed, met in secret to fix prices from 1989 to 1998.

The companies will pay $305 million to 22 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As part of the settlement, some businesses will be eligible to participate in a $107 million claim fund.

In addition, 43 state governments, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, will receive $30 million for overcharges on products purchased by the governments.

``Consumers, farmers and businesses paid higher prices for years because of this price-fixing scheme,'' said Jim Doyle, attorney general of Wisconsin, one of the states involved in the settlement announced Tuesday.

F. Hoffmann-La Roche of Switzerland; BASF of Germany; Aventis of France; and Japanese companies Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., Eisai Co. and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co. took part in the settlement.

``We have cooperated fully with the authorities since this situation came to light and we've taken steps to see that this is not repeated in the future,'' said Martin Hirsch, a Hoffmann-La Roche spokesman.

Last year, Hoffman-La Roche and BASF were ordered to pay $725 million in criminal fines for colluding to divide up markets and set wholesale prices.

Four former executives of BASF and Hoffman-La Roche agreed earlier this year to plead guilty, pay fines and serve time in U.S. prisons for scheming to fix vitamin prices.

The U.S. government said the conspiracy affected the vitamins most commonly used as nutritional supplements or to enrich human food and animal feed _ vitamins A, B2, B5, C, E and beta carotene.