$30.5m settlement in Australian cartel class action suit

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Companies involved in a 1990s global vitamin cartel have reached a
A$30.5m (€18.2m) settlement with plaintiffs in a class action suit
to brought by individuals and companies who claimed to have
suffered losses as a result of price-fixing.

Roche Holding, BASF and Sanofi-Aventis were three of the companies involved in price-fixing of vitamins A, C, E, B2, B5 and beta carotene, for human and animal nutrition, from 1989 to 1999.

The case has had repercussions for the perpetrators, amongst which were also Merck, Degussa, Lonza, Takeda Chemical Industries, Daiichi Pharmaceutical and Eisai, around the world.

In November 2001 the European Commission imposed fines totalling €833.23m - although a court challenge by BASF and Daichi saw their portions reduced by €236.9m and €18m respectively earlier this year.

Separate charges were brought in the US, resulting in fines of more than US$2 bn to federal and state governments and private plaintiffs.

The Australian Federal Court cleared the path to the class action suit against the three companies in 2002.

The settlement, announced in court today, centres around animal nutrition, and the plaintiffs involved in the action included farmers who claimed to have paid over-the-odds for products.

Small companies who claimed to have lost market share as a result of the cartel were also represented.

The settlement is yet to be approved by the court, but if approval is granted it will be Australia's first ever successfully concluded cartel class action, according to Kim Parker Maurice Blackburn Cashman, the law firm representing the applicants.

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