Oct 13, 2004

US: Bayer to Pay Fine for Rubber Price Fixing

Germany's Bayer AG has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $4.7 million fine for taking part in a conspiracy to fix the prices of synthetic rubber, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday. For the third time this year, Bayer or a subsidiary of the company admitted to violating antitrust laws and agreed to help the government in an ongoing investigation.

The plea announced on Wednesday involves the market for a rubber called acrylonitrile-butadiene, which is used to manufacture a variety of products including automotive parts. Bayer was charged with conspiring from May through December 2002 to suppress and eliminate competition for the product in the United States and elsewhere. The material is used to make hoses, belting, cable, o-rings, seals, adhesives and sealants, the department said.

Bayer issued a statement saying it had cooperated with the department during the investigation and that the plea deal, if approved by a federal court, resolves all U.S. criminal charges against the company for activities related to its acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber business.

The plea deal comes about two weeks after a Pittsburgh-based subsidiary of Bayer agreed to plead guilty and pay a $33 million criminal fine for participating in a separate conspiracy to fix prices of the chemical polyester polyols. The government said the company conspired from 1998 to 2002 with an unnamed producer and individuals to suppress and eliminate U.S. competition for the chemical used in products ranging from plastic grocery bags to automotive parts.

And in July, Bayer agreed to plead guilty and pay a $66 million fine as part of another investigation into price fixing of rubber chemicals. In that case, the department said Bayer agreed to plead guilty to one felony count under charges that it conspired to suppress competition for products sold between 1995 and 2001.