Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

THREE EXECUTIVES SENTENCED IN UK’S FIRST OFFICE OF FAIR TRADE’S CRIMINAL PROSECUTION FOR BID RIGGING

On June 11, 2008, Peter Whittle, David Brammar and Bryan Allison pled guilty for running a cartel in UK’s first criminal prosecution for bid rigging. Mr. Allison and Mr. Whittle were both sentenced to three years in prison while Mr. Brammar received a two and a half year sentence. Mr. Allison also had to pay a fine of £25,000.

The Office of Fair Trade (“OFT”) had accused the men of allocating markets and customers, restricting supplies, fixing prices and rigging bids for the supply of marine hose and related equipment in the UK. Marine hose is used by the oil and defense industries for transporting oil between tankers and storage facilities. The companies involved were Dunlop Marine Limited, Bridgestone Corporation, Yokohama Rubber Company Limited, Parker ITR S.R.L., Manuli Rubber Industries SPA and Trelleborg Industrie S.A.

These chargers were the first ever to be prosecuted under Section 188 of the Enterprise Act of 2002 in the UK, which criminalized cartel offenses. The defendants were first charged by the Office of Fair Trade on December 18, 2007. The charges were related to their cartel’s activities between June 20, 2003 and May 2, 2007.

Mr. Brammar and Mr. Allision were executives at Dunlop Marine Limited while Mr. Whittle was hired as a full time business consultant by the parties involved in the cartel to coordinate their activities around the world. In May 2007, the three men along with others were arrested in Houston, TX in a coordinated effort between the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and UK’s OFT. Under a plea agreement with the U.S. DOJ, the three men were extradited to the UK to cooperate in the OFT’s ongoing investigations.

A separate investigation is being conducted by the European Commission under Article 81 of its treaty. If allegations brought up by the EC are proved, the companies involved could be fined up to 10% of the group’s worldwide turnover. There will also be a possibility of stand alone or follow up damages for those who were affected by the anticompetitive practices of the cartel. The UK market is said to have lost an estimated £2.5 million.

Camelia C. Mazard
202-589-1837
cmazard@dbmlawgroup.com