Water Treatment Chemicals Manufacturer Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy Aimed at Eliminating Competition
Company to pay $5 Million Criminal Fine
GEO Specialty Chemicals Inc., an Ohio company, has pleaded guilty for its role in a conspiracy to eliminate competition involving contracts to supply liquid aluminum sulfate to municipalities and pulp and paper manufacturers in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today.
GEO’s Water Treatment Chemicals Division, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a manufacturer and supplier of water treatment chemicals, including liquid aluminum sulfate. The company has admitted to conspiring to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers involving contracts for liquid aluminum sulfate, a coagulant used by municipalities to treat drinking and waste water, and by pulp and paper manufacturers in their manufacturing processes. GEO has been sentenced to pay a fine of $5 million. GEO is the first corporate defendant, and fourth defendant overall, to be charged with participation in this decade-and-a-half-long conspiracy. One individual previously pleaded guilty and two others have been indicted in connection with the conspiracy.
“GEO and its co-conspirators deprived municipalities and paper manufacturers of the competitive prices they rightly expected from their suppliers of liquid aluminum sulfate,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “This prosecution continues our efforts to hold criminally responsible those who collude to cheat their customers.”
“The FBI is committed to protecting the American consumer’s right to expect the benefits of free and open competition. However, GEO Specialty Chemicals and their co-conspirators colluded to circumvent competitive bidding and independent pricing for liquid aluminum sulfate contracts, and conspired to raise prices by submitting artificially inflated bids to their customers,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the FBI’s Newark Division. “They also allocated customers in furtherance of their collusive scheme. By agreeing to violate both the spirit and the letter of the competitive process, GEO and others defrauded municipalities as well as pulp and paper companies out of millions of dollars.”
According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, from 1997 until 2011, GEO and its co-conspirators engaged in their collusive agreement by meeting to discuss each other’s liquid aluminum sulfate business, submitting intentionally losing bids to favor the intended winner of the business, withdrawing inadvertently winning bids, and discussing with each other prices to be quoted or bid to municipalities and pulp and paper manufacturers.
The investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and customer allocation in the liquid aluminum sulfate industry is being conducted by the New York Office of the Antitrust Division and the FBI’s New Jersey Office. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging, or customer allocation in the sale and marking of liquid aluminum sulfate should contact the New York Office of the Antitrust Division at 212-335-8000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.