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Antitrust Settlements with Vitamin Manufacturers Provide $541,500 for DC Charities and $284,309 for DC Government

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Antitrust Settlements with Vitamin Manufacturers Provide $541,500 for DC Charities and $284,309 for DC Government

DC Corporation Counsel Robert R. Rigsby announced today that the District of Columbia, 21 states, and Puerto Rico had reached a settlement with six vitamins manufacturers to resolve allegations of antitrust law violations arising out of an international cartel to fix the prices of vitamins during 1989 to 1999. Under the settlement, the manufacturers will pay $225 million to compensate consumers and businesses for the higher prices they paid for vitamins. The settlement also resolves numerous pending class action suits.

In addition, in a separate agreement, the manufacturers will pay more than $29 million to compensate state governments and the governments of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for overcharges on governmental vitamin purchases.

According to Rigsby, "This Office joined five state attorney general offices to negotiate these settlements on behalf of all the settling states. It was the first time that the District served in a leadership capacity in the negotiation of a multi-state antitrust settlement."

The settlement of claims for consumer and business purchases will be administered for all the states by the DC Superior Court, while the settlement of claims for government purchases will be administered by the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Implementation of the settlements is subject to approval of the courts.

The settlements involve three European companies - Hoffman-La Roche Inc., BASF Corporation, and Aventis Animal Nutrition S.A. (formerly Rhone-Poulenc) - and three Japanese companies - Takeda Chemical Industries, Ltd., Eisai Co., Ltd., and Daiichi Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Together, these companies have controlled more than 80% of the world's vitamin market. Vitamins are used in many products, including vitamin pills, foods such as milk, cereal, and bread, and feed for chicken, beef, and fish.

Under the settlements, a total of $541,500 is to be paid to DC charities that advance the health or nutrition of consumers, and $284,309.45 is to be paid to the District government. In addition, businesses that purchased vitamins from DC will be able to make claims against a $107 million fund, which is to be administered on a multi-state basis.

The District's ability to pursue antitrust claims on behalf of consumers and businesses is facilitated by a provision of the District's antitrust law that allows a purchaser to seek damages for an antitrust violation even if the purchaser did not buy directly from the alleged violator. Under federal antitrust law, such "indirect purchasers" are not allowed to recover damages.

Contact: Leigh Slaughter, (202) 724-5198