Roche wins final appeal point over price-fixing

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Related tags: United states

The US District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday
resolved the final outstanding point in Roche's appeal over the
Empagran price-fixing case, ruling that the US courts have no
jurisdiction in the United States to claims of foreign purchasers
of vitamins, writes Jess Halliday.

Ecuador-based Empagran filed a suit under US anti-trust laws against F. Hoffman-LaRoche and around 20 other foreign companies for alleged price-fixing, following a settlement between the US government and the so-called 'Vitamin Cartel' over global vitamin price-fixing.

Roche and BASF pleaded guilty to taking part in a worldwide conspiracy in 1999, agreeing to pay a total of $725 million in fines. Merck, Degussa, Lonza, Takeda Chemical Industries, Daiichi Pharmaceutical and Eisai also pleaded guilty to the charges.

Since then, a further $2 billion has been paid by vitamin makers through civil lawsuits in US courts.

However none of the price-fixing or vitamin purchases alleged in Empagran's case occurred in the United States.

In January 2003 the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that non-US plaintiffs may bring claims in US courts under US anti-trust laws for alleged damages suffered from transactions outside the United States in connection with the vitamin case.

But in June 2004 the case was reviewed by the Supreme Court, which decided unanimously that non-US plaintiffs in principle may not bring claims in US courts for alleged damages suffered from transactions outside the US. It said that the plaintiffs were free to ask the lower court to consider one argument it had not addressed, that of 'alternative theory'.

According to Roche, yesterday's decision brings the Empagran case to an end.

Gottlieb Keller, head of corporate services and member of the corporate executive committee, said: "We are satisfied by the decision of the Court of Appeals. We always felt strongly in our position. After the positive decision of the Supreme Court in June 2004 on 5 of 6 points, the Court of Appeals now also took a decision in favor of Roche on the remaining point."

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